FEATURE: Young mum’s health battle inspires poker community to act

When it comes to charity, the poker community is always prepared to dig deep, especially when for one of our own. This is one of those times.

Grant Levy is among Australia’s most successful and respected poker players but his battles on the felt pale in comparison to that currently being fought by his sister-in-law Kirsten, the 35-year-old wife of Grant’s brother Chris and mother to two boys aged just three and 12 months.

Grant’s wife Sharon took up the story from when Kirsten returned to work late last year as a Business Manager for the Young Endeavour Youth Scheme after a period of maternity leave.

“In the week leading into Christmas, Kirsten started feeling a little more tired than usual. On Christmas morning Kirsten woke extremely fatigued and subsequently missed out on the whole day’s celebrations,” Sharon recalled.

“The seizures started on Christmas night. She was rushed by ambulance to Nepean Hospital. Doctors initially suspected viral encephalitis or meningitis but the tests for these and countless other infections and diseases came back negative. While the doctors searched for answers, Kirsten was placed into a medically induced coma in an attempt to stop the seizures and limit brain damage.

“After being moved to Westmead Hospital and weeks of testing, a diagnosis was made. Kirsten has non-paraneoplastic limbic encephalitis (NPLE), an autoimmune disease that caused Kirsten’s immune system to react against itself, causing antibodies in her blood to attack her brain tissue. Kirsten had no symptoms of the disease prior to the tiredness.

“Once a diagnosis was made, Kirsten was slowly woken from the coma, but the initial treatment plans didn’t work. She eventually started responding and communicating seven weeks after she was initially hospitalised.

“Kirsten is determined to get home to her boys and is working hard with speech and physiotherapists. In the meantime, her husband Chris is juggling full-time work as a high school teacher with daily visits to Kirsten, while looking after his boys.

“Kirsten’s disease is extremely rare, newly discovered, and there isn’t a great deal of research on it or people who have been diagnosed with it. This makes it difficult for doctors to treat Kirsten and give a long-term prognosis.

“We don’t know what the future holds for Kirsten and her family and this uncertainty makes the situation difficult to deal with, both emotionally and in a practical sense. It is hoped that Kirsten will soon be admitted to a rehabilitation facility closer to home.

“Despite the uncertainty, it is clear that the family’s daily living expenses, coupled with the cost of rehab and therapy sessions, will increase significantly. In the long term, it is possible that renovations will be needed to their home, or a new home purchased that is wheelchair friendly. A wheelchair will also mean a new car and potentially a carer will be required.”

The Kirsten Levy Foundation has been established to help this young family cope with this difficult period in their lives.
Little by Little Inc. is a local charity and have kindly offered to sponsor the foundation, which means all donations over $2 are tax deductable. Donations can be deposited into this bank account:

Name: Little by Little Incorporated Gift Fund Account
BSB: 062597
Account No: 10625390

Note: to ensure the Foundation receives all donations deposited into this account, please write ‘Kirsten’ and your phone number in the reference line when making the deposit. Please also send a message via the Kirsten Levy Foundation Facebook page to advise of your deposit.

Donations can also be sent to:
Kirsten Levy Foundation
PO Box 14, Cranebrook, NSW 2749

More fundraising activities are planned in coming months, and the families appreciate any and all support received to aid this young mum in her struggle.

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