Shania in hospital13-year-old Shania is a whizz in the kitchen. She loves cooking and dreams of working in the food industry or running her own café when she's older.

Mum Lisa says her daughter always has a smile on her face and gives everything a go from dancing to swimming.

On a typical day in June last year, Shania's life took a devastating turn.

After her regular swimming lesson, Shania got out of the pool feeling dizzy and light-headed. She started to shake and was unable to walk.

Lisa recalls how frightening it was seeing her daughter rushed to hospital.

After a long period of observation, Shania was sent home to recover but was unable to walk for nine weeks. During those painful weeks, Lisa worried that Shania may have damaged a disc in her back so arranged for an MRI. 

Tragically, doctors diagnosed Shania with Chiari malformation, a rare condition in which brain tissue extends into the spinal canal.

"We were overcome with emotion," Lisa says. "We were confused, scared and so sad for Shania."

The family faced further tragedy during this time when Shania's dad Lee was rushed to emergency and was diagnosed with Bell's palsy.

Lisa said despite Lee having his own health battles, he remained Shania's rock helping to keep the tight-knit family together.

Shania in wheelchairShania underwent a six-hour brain operation at Perth Children's Hospital as brain fluid was entering her spinal cord causing swelling and leaving Shania unable to walk. 

There were further complications when Shania began suffering severe headaches. Tests revealed excess fluid around her brain and sadly, Shania needed another three-hour surgery.

Shania endured long and painful weeks in hospital away from all the things she loves.

Thankfully, the family had Starlight in hospital helping Shania smile and laugh again.

Shania playing in the Starlight Express Room

Shania loved visiting the Starlight Express Room and enjoyed crafts, puzzles and even challenging Captain Starlight to a game of Uno!

Shania in the Starlight Express Room

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The Starlight Express Room really helped Shania during her recovery. Having fun took her mind off all the pain and she could just be a kid again.
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Shania's mum, Lisa

Shania's condition and ongoing treatment impact every aspect of her life.

"She was always a daredevil as a child," her mum said. "But now we have to put limits on what she is able to do."

Shania has to avoid anything that creates pressure to her head. That means no diving into a pool, no trampolines and no fun rides on rollercoasters. She can't participate in any ball sports and her beloved water sports are very limited.

Shania has regular appointments with her rehab team and doctors and is busy catching up on her studies after missing so much school.

It's also been hard on Shania's older sister Olivia and the family misses spending time together as they juggle hospital and treatment.

Shania and family

Amid all the pain and sadness, there have been shining moments of happiness.

Shania has just received the exciting news that she will be granted her Starlight Wish.

After so much time in hospital, Shania asked to take her family away to thank them for their love and support.

Thanks to our Official Wishgranting Partner Virgin Australia, the family are about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime to Hamilton Island.

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Shania's Starlight Wish has made her very happy and she now has something to look forward to after everything that she's been through. It's shown her that there is always hope for a good future.
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Shania's mum, Lisa

Shania is now busy planning her dream holiday and is looking forward to spending time with her family. She also loves everything about flying - from the workings of the plane to the work of the crew - so can't wait to have her boarding pass in hand!

Shania's Hamilton Island wish will take her a world away from hospital and she can't wait to explore the tropical island, cruise the Whitsundays and maybe even have breakfast with the koalas!

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Shania is so excited for her Starlight Wish adventure to begin. It will bring us all so much happiness after such a painful and sad experience. We are appreciative to everyone involved for helping create this incredible experience for our family.
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Shania's mum, Lisa

Watch this space for Shania's Hamilton Island Starlight Wish to unfold!

Stories like these are only made possible thanks to our generous supporters. If you'd like to help make a difference for a child, you can donate below.
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