Martin and Sandra Fisk at Dead Horse Gap, Thredbo. Photo: Christine Bamford
When Martin and Sandra Fisk tied the knot this month there was nothing, not even the effects of a life-threatening illness, that could prevent them having their dream wedding in the mountains.
The Canberra couple had planned to marry at Thredbo and spend their honeymoon hiking to Mount Hotham, but those plans were thrown into doubt when the bride fell ill with encephalitis.
The condition caused a potentially deadly inflammation of the brain, and in the months following her diagnosis Mrs Fisk had to learn to walk again and regain her speech.
Martin and Sandra Fisk went ahead with their marriage in the mountains on May 3. Photo: Christine Bamford
Mr Fisk, who is the chief executive of Menslink, said the couple felt blessed to have their family and friends rally around and help get them to their wedding day.
Their harrowing experience with the illness began with a high temperature on about January 7.
"I said to the doctor, 'I feel weird in the head' – I wasn't really able to describe it any other way, and then I became really cold and shivery,'' she said.
Martin Fisk with wife Sandra, who fell ill with encephalitis in January. Photo: Christine Bamford
The doctor ordered blood tests that showed Mrs Fisk had viral meningitis.
Mr and Mrs Fisk were told the treatment was bedrest and Mr Fisk took time off work to care for his then-fiancee, rather than have her stay in hospital.
"She got better,'' Mr Fisk said.
"Yes, I did,'' Mrs Fisk added. However, shortly after returning to work, Mrs Fisk collapsed and within the next 12 hours her condition deteriorated rapidly.
"I took Sandra home from work and she went to bed and I went to Kambah to feed her horse, which took about 30 minutes,'' Mr Fisk said.
"When I got back inside I found her curled up on the floor in the kitchen, under the bench, very distressed and disorientated.
"I said, 'We're going to the hospital.' She was in and out of consciousness in the car on the way there. I walked her into emergency and I was seen by the nurse in about five minutes, and by the time I turned around Sandra could not lift her left leg at all. I told the nurse 'that's new' and we got her straight into treatment.''
Mr Fisk said Sandra quickly developed an uncontrollable tremor on the left-hand side of her body and lost the ability to speak.
"At that time the doctor said, 'Look, she has almost certainly got encephalitis,' '' Mr Fisk said.
He quickly turned to the internet and read that 60 to 70 per cent of all cases would result in permanent brain damage.
Mrs Fisk said the result for her was similar to damage caused by a stroke.
"I was paralysed down my left-hand side for a few days,'' she said.
"I focused really hard on my left toes and it took two days of really thinking I'm going to move my toes before anything would happen. It was very tiring because I was forcing my brain to make new pathways just to allow my toes to move.''
Mrs Fisk said she had a lot of help from a physiotherapist and occupational therapist from the ACT Health Vocational Assessment and Rehabilitation Service, which had allowed her to return to work part-time.
"If it was not for them I would still be in bed,'' she said.
"The focus of the wedding was also an incentive to get well and I was determined to get there and for it to be in the mountains.''
Mr and Mrs Fisk share a love of bushwalking, which led to their meeting four years ago, and they hope to one day take the two week hike they planned from Thredbo to Mount Hotham.
"We really want to thank all of the people from ACT Health and the wedding service providers and our friends who have helped us so much,'' Mrs Fisk said.
Mrs Fisk is selling her horse, which she can no longer ride. Anybody who would like to inquire can contact her via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org