By TOBY WALKER
IT sounds like every parent's nightmare.
One day their child is healthy and happy, the next they are changed forever, trapped in silence by a debilitating medical condition.
For 23-year-old Grafton mother, Melissa Harrison, the nightmare has been real for almost three months.
The last time Melissa heard her daughter Anna-lise speak was when her little girl woke up early in the morning to ask for a drink.
Anna-lise, 2, had been running a temperature from what seemed to be nothing more than a common flu.
Two days later she was rushed to Sydney Children's Hospital in Randwick, where doctors began running tests to find out what had removed the spark from this bright young girl.
After four days of tests they concluded that she had contracted Herpes simplex virus or Herpes simplex encephalitis (HSE), a rare condition that infects the frontal lobe of the brain and causes severe mental impairment.
Yesterday Melissa sat in the children's ward of Grafton Base Hospital as Anna-lise tried to break free from her cuddles, constantly wriggling in an agitated state caused by the loss of her motor functions.
"It took everything away from her," said Melissa.
"She can't walk, she can't eat, she can't sit up, she can't talk.
"She was walking and talking and everything was fine until then."
Almost three months on, Melissa has spent two four-week stints in Sydney with her daughter as doctors look for a way to bring Anna-lise back from her baby-like condition, a state that has even left her unable to cry.
"They told me that she's got severe brain damage and they can't tell me exactly what she's going to get back or if she will get anything back.
"She may never come good, she could be just like this for the rest of her life, then again she could come good, it could take days, it could take months, it could take years."