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Eight-year-old on family holiday in Portugal paralysed in freak surfing accident

The terrible bad luck of eight-year-old Nakita Wright – paralysed during a surf lesson with her father on holiday in Portugal – is back in the news this week as the family battles to raise £15,000 (€17,300) for medical equipment that could restore the feeling to her damaged legs.

Nakita suffered a rare injury known as ‘surfer’s myelopathy’ as she was being shown basic surf moves by her father on the sands at Praia da Rocha beach.

As reports explain, “surfer’s myelopathy occurs when the spine is hyper-extended, pinching a key blood vessel and starving the lower spinal cord of oxygen, killing nerves vital for feeling and movement”.

Only 64 cases have been reported worldwide since the condition was identified in 2004, and Nakita is believed to be the youngest ever affected.

The injury literally happens from one healthy moment of activity to the next – and it “almost uniformly affects young, healthy novice surfers”.

Nakita’s mother Natasha recalls: “Her dad Russell was teaching her to lie down and jump up. All of a sudden, Nakita said: “Mum, I can’t move my legs! She started crying and checking her feet as she struggled to walk”.

At first, the child’s parents thought her legs were “just sleeping”, and they carried Nakita back to their beachside hotel where she took a nap.

The Daily Mail explains that when she woke up, Nakita still couldn’t feel her legs.

Doctors in Faro diagnosed an infection, yet “after two five-day courses of steroids” nothing had changed.

This all happened on what should have been a happy family holiday last October, but now, a year on, with Nakita still in a wheelchair, the family are desperate to try a last-ditch form of therapy.

Explains the Mail, the medical equipment they are trying to raise funds for “uses electrical impulses to stimulate paralysed muscles”.

But it is something of a hope against hope. The Mail quotes a consultant neurologist at Bristol Royal Hospital saying she is “quite pessimistic” about Nakita regaining the use of her legs.

“She has had a lot of rehabilitation and time has gone by,” said Dr Peta Sharples. “Most recovery is in the first six months”.

Nonetheless, Nakita herself is much more positive. Her mother has told newspapers that she says “I will walk again” and that the family remains hopeful.

“Never is a long time,” Natasha Wright concluded.

Anyone keen to help in the family’s fundraising campaign can find details here: https://gogetfunding.com/nakitas-pedalling-pink/

By NATASHA DONN natasha.donn@algarveresident.com