JUST five years after her family were called to gather round her hospital bed an inspirational Rosyth girl is "thriving" and looking forward to starting high school.

Annabelle Collins was diagnosed with a rare combination of encephalitis, which causes swelling of the brain following an infection, and enterovirus in 2017 and had to re-learn how to walk, read and speak.

The 11-year-old currently attends St John's Primary School and, despite her attendance being around 30 per cent when she first returned, is enjoying a near-full-time education with no need for one-on-one support.

Annabelle's mum, Yvonne, explained: "It's taken some time to get her to school full-time but that's partly not her fault, she was part-time for ages and then COVID happened, she had finally got the full-time when it started.

"Annabelle was placed on the at-risk register so she was shielding at home for the whole time.

"The interesting thing was, as difficult as lockdown was for so many people, for Annabelle it was a really good time as I think it gave her body time to heal.

"When she was at school before that, her immune system isn't great, she was catching things really quickly and she gets more unwell than other children do."

She continued: "Prior to lockdown, she was in and out of hospital quite a lot with different viruses and her blood pressure would go down a lot but when lockdown happened she wasn't catching anything and became Annabelle again, it was lovely.

"It's fantastic, this year she is in P7 and I would honestly say it is her best year yet in school, partly to do with her teacher, Mr Tomlinson, who is fantastic, he's just wonderful, so good with her and really listens to what her needs are.

"She had a cognitive assessment done a couple of years ago and it showed she had memory issues and her processing of information was different, her teacher really quickly made adaptations for her."

Annabelle will have an "enhanced introduction" to St Columba's next year, a process her parents are both nervous and excited for as she takes on yet another challenge.

When the youngster first left hospital her family were hesitant about what the future would bring, but Yvonne says she has come on "leaps and bounds" since the terrifying experience.

She said: "Viral encephalitis is a life-threatening illness, there was a time when she was first unwell when we went from the Victoria Hospital over to Sick Kids where we were prepared for the worst.

"We were asked to contact family to come and see her, it was just unbelievable, she was really ill for a number of weeks and then started to recover.

"She learned to walk again and her body was doing well but, cognitively, there was more damage done than we originally thought but life is so much better now, we know her so much more now.

"It is scary for us as parents because we do know her memory can be affected if she is unwell or stressed or tired and that is a worry but we put things in place to help that.

"She's a really funny girl – she has a huge sense of humour – in school, she does mask her difficulties but when she comes home to her safe space, she does laugh about it now, where before it did frustrate her.

"A few years ago, me and my husband were really worried about this to the point where we were wondering what we could do with her schooling and if it was right to send her to school."

The family, Yvonne, Stephen, Annabelle, and her eight-year-old sister, Bethany, spent part of the summer at a trip funded by the Encephalitis Society which allowed them all to socialise with, and meet, people who had experienced similar things.

"It was tailored to everyone's needs and it was so good – we got to do things like abseiling and raft-building," Yvonne explained.

"It is the most herself I have ever seen her except from being in the house and I think that's because she was surrounded by people who understood and her guard wasn't up at all.

"Annabelle is definitely one of the lucky ones, she'll need support in her life but not like other people.

"Everybody recovers at a different rate and speed but I haven't met anybody yet who is fully recovered back to how they were before but that doesn't mean they are completely changed or their life is totally different."

Dunfermline and West Fife MP Douglas Chapman visited the Collins family recently after nominating her for a prestigious UK Kids Count Inspiration Awards in 2017.

He said: "Great to see them all again and to see Annabelle looking so well."