Hazel Redmond’s diminutive frame hides an enormous heart. At just 20 years old, Hazel has had more than her share of struggle; she has had to fight to build a life far different to the one she envisaged. Now, she is on a mission to help others in a similar position.
Five years ago Hazel was stricken with viral meningitis, followed by encephalitis. Just one of these diseases can be life-threatening, but two…..well, there was not much hope. For weeks, her life hung in the balance and her family was warned to expect the worst.
While meningitis is something we are all warned to be aware of, encephalitis is relatively rare – even the health professionals didn’t know a lot about the disease, or the treatment.
Fortunately, Hazel pulled through, but the ongoing after-effects have changed everything. “I used to be great at Maths and English, but my memory, balance and cognitive skills were seriously damaged, and may never fully return. Encephalitis literally means an inflammation of the brain, and the damage meant I had to learn to walk and talk again; I had to learn to do basic things like count, tie my shoelaces and brush my hair.” A year off school and intensive physiotherapy followed.
During her long recovery Hazel was nominated for Make-A-Wish, a charity that grants wishes to children with life threatening illnesses. She was thrilled when her wish to meet fashion designer Karen Walker was granted. “I’ve always admired Karen’s drive and passion, so it was amazing to be picked up in a limo and to spend a day with her. I met her husband, spent time in her workshop and we talked about my hobbies and focussing on the future. I gained so much from that one day. To also have her ongoing mentorship is incredible.”
Impressed by her own experience, Hazel is now an ambassador for Make-A-Wish Foundation, sharing her story at fundraising events and helping make dreams come true for others.
Determination is something Hazel has by the bucket-load. Once she could walk again, she wanted to run, and once she could run, she set her sights on the 2015 Queenstown half-marathon. “It was the biggest physical achievement of my life,” she says. “It was while I was running last year I decided to do it again, but to use the event to raise money.” Make-A-Wish Foundation was thrilled with the idea.
Fatigue is still an ongoing struggle. “I know how lucky I am to be here, and to have had so much support throughout my ordeal. It changed my life, and now it’s my turn to pay it forward and do this for others.”
Add a touch of magic to a child’s life by supporting Hazel’s efforts for Make-A-Wish Foundation. Donate at BNZ: 02-0836-0118738-000 or pop into The Photoshop in the Ashburton Arcade. All money raised will go directly to the foundation.