Determined Demi gets back on her feet

The right help can improve outcomes for brain injury
Tuesday, March 14 2023

A 13-year-old girl who suddenly suffered a life threatening brain haemorrhage due to a congenital vascular condition is regaining her independence a year later with ongoing multidisciplinary support and therapy, and the encouragement of her family. 

“Demi’s excellent progress demonstrates what can be achieved for people after a brain injury, and is cause for hope for those who suffer a brain bleed or a traumatic head injury,” says Prof Andre Mochan, a neurologist who practises at Netcare Rehabilitation Hospital, ahead of World Head Injury Awareness Day on 20 March.

“When Demi collapsed out of the blue and was rushed to hospital, we didn’t know what was happening to her and at first, they weren’t sure if she would make it. It was an extremely tough time for us,” recalls her father, Damien Blaauw. 

Doctors discovered that an arteriovenous malformation [AVM], an abnormal bunching of the blood vessels had suddenly burst and started filling the left hemisphere of her brain with blood. Initial management and control of the bleeding were performed surgically at the first hospital she was taken to, Demi was then transferred to Netcare Milpark Hospital for further specialised care. This involved endovascular cure of the AVM by interventional radiologist Dr M Valli Omar, and Demi was under the intensive care of neurologist Dr Pradeep Rowji, who Damien says has become Demi’s “great friend”.

Pic: Living proof of what can be achieved with determination and multidisciplinary rehabilitation after a severe brain injury, Demi Blaauw has made great progress in the past year since suddenly suffering a life-threatening brain haemorrhage at the age of 12. Initially unable to walk or talk, Demi’s speech and mobility are improving and her love of cooking and baking is stronger than ever.  

Rehabilitation journey
“Initially when Demi came to us at Netcare Rehabilitation Hospital she was unable to speak and had great difficulty understanding. She was almost completely paralysed on the right side of her body and unable to walk and the haemorrhage also affected her vision,” Prof Mochan says.

“When our daughter arrived at the hospital, there was already a plan in place, starting with assessments and the genuinely caring team developed a whole therapy plan around her needs. I was blown away, every week we could see the difference in her. Demi pushed on and showed such improvement that her rehabilitation plan needed to be constantly adjusted to keep up with her,” Damien adds. 

During her stay at the hospital, Demi underwent intensive comprehensive therapy from a multidisciplinary team including a rehabilitation neurologist, psychologist, physiotherapist, speech and occupational therapists, social worker, and experienced nursing staff to support her and her family. 

“Gradually, Demi started to recover her understanding until she was eventually able to form words, and the weakness on the right side of her body began to improve. Since being discharged, she has continued with therapies on an out-patient basis. Demi’s determination is paying off, and her speech and mobility are considerably better. Demi has come such a long way in the past year, and we foresee that she will continue to make progress,” Prof Mochan says.


“My daughter is a very determined individual, and she won’t allow the situation to side-line her even though she’s had this big setback,” Damien says. 

A patient’s successful return to their home after rehabilitation is an internationally recognised measure of the success of a physical rehabilitation programme. In the year October 2021 to September 2022, 89.7% of patients admitted to Netcare Rehabilitation Hospital with a head injury were discharged home. 

“Demi has started at her new school and exceeded her teachers’ expectations of the progress a child can make after a brain haemorrhage injury. Demi developed such a close relationship with the rehabilitation therapists that when we do the exercises with her at home, she gets a little impatient with us sometimes,” her father says, laughing. 

“With the correct medical attention and therapy from the start, neurological rehabilitation can help to lessen the physical and cognitive deficits associated with brain injury, making a great difference to the person’s functionality, confidence and quality of life. For the individual and their family, each step towards a greater degree of independence is hugely significant,” Prof Mochan concludes. 

On 24 March 2023, Netcare Rehabilitation Hospital will be hosting a virtual head injury awareness event aimed at health professionals, highlighting the journey of survivors and the role of multidisciplinary teamwork in securing the best possible outcomes for each person in a caring, family centred approach to rehabilitation. To join the meeting on the day from 1pm to 3pm, please click



Notes to editor
Looking for a medical appointment? Netcare appointmed™ will make appointments for YOU with specialists practising at Netcare hospitals, GPs and dentists at Netcare Medicross medical and dental centres, and specialists at Netcare Akeso mental health facilities. Simply request an appointment online at or phone Netcare appointmed™  on 0860 555 565, Mondays to Fridays between 08:00 and 17:00.
To find out more about the services offered through Netcare hospitals and other of the Group’s facilities, please visit or contact the Netcare customer service centre either by email at [email protected] or phone 0860 NETCARE (0860 638 2273). Note that the centre operates Mondays to Fridays from 08:00 to 16:00.
For media enquiries, contact MNA at the contact details listed below.

Issued by:  MNA on behalf of Netcare Rehabilitation Hospital
For media enquiries contact:  Martina Nicholson, Meggan Saville, Estene Lotriet-Vorster or Clementine Forsthofer
Telephone:   (011) 469 3016
Email:   [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected] or [email protected]