Miracle recovery for Emily

A mother has shared her story of hope following her daughter Emily’s road accident in 2014.

  Credit: Emily and her mum Jane at The Children's Trust  In the article, which featured in The Mirror this week, Jane Owen explains how doctors told her Emily was brain dead but she never lost hope for a miracle. The family were on holiday when Emily, then 13, was thrown into the air by a car. She suffered severe head and facial ­injuries and was flown by air ambulance to Bristol Royal Hospital for Children for emergency surgery. “When we were finally allowed to see her, she was unrecognisable,” says Jane. “Her head was grotesquely swollen, and her right arm and hand were puffed up.” Jane had always called Emily her “miracle girl”. “After the accident I just prayed maybe our family would be lucky enough to get another miracle,” says Jane from Chelmsford, Essex.

From devastation to hope

After surgery to relieve the pressure inside her skull, Emily was put on life support before being moved to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, to be nearer the family home. But it wasn’t long before doctors told Jane that Emily would never make a ­meaningful recovery. “A consultant told us that on the evidence of previous scans and what he’d observed from looking into Emily’s eyes, he believed she was brain dead,” she says. “He told us we would have to think about switching off life support. “I felt numb. I didn’t question what that doctor said because since the ­accident there’d been no sign of any recovery. But a part of me hoped against hope that he was wrong.” Two days after being told Emily would never recover from her brain ­injuries, one final scan revealed the damage was less extensive than first feared. Jane says: “That came as an incredible relief, to say the least. She was in a coma, but we could hope again.”

First signs of recovery

Six weeks after the ­accident, Emily was taken off life support and immediately started breathing for herself. Her progress over the next three months astounded the family and medics alike. “When Emily was little, we used to play a game – I’d kiss her and she’d pretend to wipe it off and giggle,” says Jane. “Every day in the hospital when we arrived at her bedside each morning I would kiss her as a greeting. Usually she just lay there. But one morning when I kissed her, she wiped it off and started giggling – just like she used to. “That was the very first sign that she was coming back to us.” Jane continues: “Each day, even though Emily was still not conscious, we’d get her out of bed, sit her in a chair, talk to her, and play her favourite music and films. “One day she opened her eyes, the nurses put a pen and pad into her hands, and she wrote the word ‘Dad’. I can’t describe the feelings we had at that moment – we were just so happy. “The next day, her dad Paul was asking her what colour iPhone she wanted – like all teens, she loved her mobile phone, and had been asking for a new one just before her accident. Suddenly Paul noticed her mouthing ‘white’. He screamed! After that, she went from strength to strength.” Emily’s admission to The ­Children’s Trust rehabilitation centre in Tadworth, Surrey, sped up her incredible progress.

From rehab to mainstream school 

Emily went from being in a ­wheelchair and unable to talk fluently to walking independently after just one week of physio. Jane told The Mirror one of the most special moments during her daughter’s recovery was when Emily swapped roles and helped her through her own health problems. “I had fallen and broken my ankle, so I was stuck in a wheelchair, like Emily,” Jane says. “But just a fortnight after arriving at the rehab centre, it was Emily who was pushing me around.” In time, Emily, now 17, went home and attended a mainstream school where she achieved six GCSEs at grades A to C. She has now begun a college course in business studies and dreams of being a banker, just like her mum. Jane says: “People often ask how we coped through all this, and it’s difficult to explain. But at the beginning, we never let go of the hope that the doctors might be wrong. And they were. “Of course, the accident has left some lingering effects – Emily writes very slowly and struggles to use her right hand. But thankfully her brain and memory are otherwise undamaged. “She has always been a good kid, but like all ­teenagers, before the ­accident she could be a little bit stroppy sometimes. Now she’s more thoughtful and caring. “She started life as a little miracle, and after the ­accident we were lucky enough to get a miracle all over again.” The story in The Mirror also promoted National Pyjama Week, which is on until Friday raising awareness of brain injury. Supporters spend a day in pyjamas to raise money for The Children’s Trust.
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