Lifetime of memories lost as backpacker wakes from coma
FOR three years Nataya Demarchio lived a dream.
Travelling the world with the love of her life, meeting hundreds of people and having adventures few dare imagine. Now, no matter how often she looks at photos from her travels, the experiences are new.
Worse, the 29-year-old who had the world at her feet just three months ago, cannot remember most of her life with fiance Bruno Meira - nor anything else for that matter.
She was struck down by an illness so rare, it took doctors six weeks to confirm what had happened to her.
Auto-immune encephalitis, or Norse Syndrome, a disease only discovered 12 years ago and of which still little is known, had wreaked havoc on her brain.
"When we were working in Mildura on a grapes job. She started to have some fever and she said it was nothing," fiance, Bruno Meira said.
A clinic suspected Nataya had an infection, so blood tests were taken.
"On July 24 she had an appointment for blood tests but she couldn't go because me and my friend Victoria, we found her on the floor and she had seizures.
"She was in a coma for three weeks and three days, in intensive care for six weeks and three days.
"We have been together eight years and eight months now, but she asks me sometimes how we met.
"She knows me always, but she can't remember how we met, she can't remember our travel for the past three years."
The French national, along with fiance Bruno Meira, would be familiar faces to many in the Granite Belt and surrounds.
The couple spent significant time in the area over the past couple years, working on several farms.
Ian Perkins and Sue Propstring knew the couple well, with the pair staying with them for much of their time in the area.
"She and Bruno worked for a number of people around here," Ms Propstring said.
"They woofed with us when they first came in about 2016.
"They helped us, working here for board and lodging."
The couple run a small organic cattle property in the Wilsons Downfall area.
"After a while they moved off and worked for other people for about a year.
"They'd come back and visit us every so often. Nataya, because she's part Thai and part French, would make these beautiful Thai meals and bring them out to us.
"They were just great characters. She was full of energy and go. Great people to have around."
They spent some time in New Zealand before finding their way back to the area.
Then in May this year they left for Melbourne.
When news of Nataya's condition found its way back, Ms Propstring said it was a shock.
"They didn't know if she'd survive. It was a shock to everyone really.
"Bruno has been very good at keeping us up to date."
Another friend they made in their travels - Judy Funder in Warwick. Ms Funder has created a GoFundMe Page to help support the couple.
It recently reached $14,400 of a $30,000 target.
"We first met them in Paris in 2016 when we stayed at their Airbnb which they were running to save money for their world travels.
"When they came to Australia they contacted us to see if we knew anyone with farm work.
"When Bruno first contacted me about Nataya's illness I was so shocked and worried for them.
"I knew they were travelling on very little, so I started the page."
Too ill for a commercial flight, a medevac aircraft staffed by specialist nurses flew Nataya and Bruno home to Paris the other week.
The $39,000 flight is another massive cost to Bruno. He plans to return to Australia to help pay off some of medical debt.
To support the couple visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/supportnataya