About Sarah

Sarah was 19, studying for an arts degree at Sydney University and living away from home for the first time, when she was struck down by meningococcal disease.  She had spent a day feeling unwell and thought she had picked up a gastro bug.  As the day wore on, Sarah started to become more unwell. Late into the evening she became delirious and a friend took her to RPA hospital.  This saved Sarah’s life.  At that time Sarah had a small purple rash beginning to appear behind her ear.  Fortunately, the staff on duty responded instantly and Sarah was rushed to intensive care and placed on life support.  She was treated with antibiotics and diagnosed with meningococcal sepsis.

Sarah was kept in a coma for two weeks and during that time lost circulation to her arms, legs and over sixty percent of her skin.  As well, Sarah suffered organ damage, particularly to her kidneys.  Sarah’s family was told she had almost no chance of surviving.  For many days Sarah was unstable, fighting for her life.  Finally she responded to treatment and was transferred to the Burns unit at Concord Hospital where she spent the next nine months.

Sarah lost her legs, her left arm and all the fingers and thumb on her right hand.  The doctors tried to save her legs but she suffered many setbacks, including infections, a recurrence of sepsis and, always, the problems associated with kidney failure.  Sarah had countless operations for amputations, muscle transfers and skin grafts.  She also had many blood transfusions and at one point had to endure leeches being used to treat blood congestion after an operation.  Throughout this time, Sarah showed what a fighter she is, never losing her hope and positive attitude.

Sarah had a lot to come to terms with.  She had been a high achieving student, primary school captain, high school prefect, house captain, singer, dancer and band player and a state level representative  at soccer.  All of this had changed and Sarah was faced with the challenges of learning to live with prosthetics and managing tasks that she once took for granted.

Amazingly, between surgeries and illness, Sarah returned to university.  Her kidneys continued to fail and the only solution was to start dialysis and plan a kidney transplant.  Her dad donated a kidney a year later.  This has been a fantastic success and from that time, Sarah’s health has improved and she has been able to start planning her life.  A very different life to the one she has imagined.

At our first ever fundraiser, the guest speaker, Dr Peter Maitz AM (Sarah’s surgeon) stated that the cost of helping Sarah to fully participate in the community would be high – and we are only now appreciating the reality of his comments.

The NSW government provides for basic prosthetics but any upgrades are to be privately funded.  There are new prosthetics available that would enable Sarah far greater mobility and independence - like a new hand with individual movement in each finger and a computerised knee that adjusts to the terrain and her speed.

Sarah will always need home and car modifications and lots of other adjustments to enable her to life a full and independent life.  She will always need to closely monitor her health.

The good news is that despite the hardships she faces, Sarah is a survivor and continues to amaze and inspire.  She is back at Sydney University, studying Economics and Social Sciences, achieving great results and looking forward to graduation - then joining the workforce.  She has also started to swim and is aiming to compete for Sydney University in the near future.

The purpose of the Sarah Hilt Foundation is to raise funds to provide financial assistance to Sarah and other victims of meningococcal disease.

Latest Update

Receiving a kidney from her dad was a major turning point for Sarah.

Finally, her health started to improve and she regained some energy and vitality. Sarah took to the pool, as in the water she is able to move freely and exercise. Gradually she gained strength and was offered a place on the Sydney Uni Elite Athlete Program. Sarah now holds five Australian and Oceana records and has represented Australia in Canada in 2011 and Germany in 2013. Sarah is the swimmer’s rep at Sydney Uni Swim Club and recently organised an Access Meet for multi class swimmers around Sydney.

Sarah also managed to finish her uni course - a Bachelor of Economics and Social Sciences, graduating from Sydney University with first class honours in April 2013.

Thanks to the support from family and community, Sarah faces the future with hope. The daily struggles of living and relying on prosthetics to walk and for her hand function remain, as does the medications and care following the kidney transplant. The funds raised by the foundation have enabled Sarah to have the limbs she needs, helped with her car, studies and independence.

The next challenge will be gaining employment and participating in the workforce. 



Donate to Sarah Hilt Foundation

© Sarah Hilt Foundation 2013