When physicians told Jane Owen that her adolescent daughter Emily was brain dead, it felt like the whole world was coming down on her.
Despite such devastating news after a road accident, Jane continued to hope for a miracle.
Jane and her family were on a seaside holiday in the West Country in May, 2014, when Emily, then 13, was flung into the air by a vehicle.
She suffered severe head and facial wounds she was flown by air ambulance to Bristol Royal Hospital for Children for immediate surgery.
“When the doctors permitted us to see her, I could not recognize her,” says Jane. “Her head was monstrously swollen, and her right arm and hand were swollen.”
Jane nicknamed her only-daughter Emily “miracle girl” due to how easily she was given birth to.
Jane, 56 worked as a bank manager till her late 30s before attempting to have a baby, she was afraid she would never be able to conceive as you would expect. But to her astonishment and joy she got pregnant without any fertility help.
“I recall when Emily was delivered, I named her a miracle girl,” declares Jane, from Chelmsford, Essex.
“After the crash, I prayed and wished our family would be fortunate enough to receive another miracle.”
After the operation to ease the pressure inside her cranium, a comatose Emily was placed on life support before she was moved to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, to be closer to home.
After a while, doctors told Jane that Emily would never make a complete and meaningful recovery. The doctor said the family needed to brace up for her end-of-life plan.
Jane, 56, remembers the minutes and seconds she received the news three years ago vividly.
“A specialist informed us that on the indication of preceding MRIs and what he had saw from stirring at Emily’s eyes, he concluded that she was brain dead,” she says. “He informed us we should start thinking about turning off life support.
“I felt weak and numb. I did not doubt the doctor’s assessment, because since the accident there had been no sign of any recuperation. But a part of me prayed the doctor was wrong.”
It became tough for the family to see a future. A couple of days after the death verdict that Emily is unlikely to recover from her brain injuries, something incredible occurred. One last X-ray showed the damage was not as life threatening as initially feared.
Jane says: “she breathed a sigh of relief, to say the least though she was in a coma, but at least she could hope again.”
Despite our hopefulness, no one could have foretold what transpired next. Six weeks after the accident, Emily was no longer on life support and instantly began breathing by herself.
Her improvement over the next three months was remarkable. It stunned d the family and medics alike.
“When Emily was younger, we played a game then – I would kiss her and she would feign whipping it off ,” says Jane.
“Every day in the hospital when we reached at her bedside each morning I would kiss her as a greeting. Usually, she just lay there still. But one morning, when I pecked her, she wiped it off and began chuckling – just like when she was younger.
“That was the first signal that she was coming back to us.
“Every day, even though Emily was still not awake, we would take her out of bed, sit her down in a chair, dialog with her, and play her favorite songs and movies.
“One day, she opened her eyes, the nurses placed a pen and pad into her hands, and she inscribed the word ‘Dad’. I cannot explain the joy and excitement brewing inside – we were just so happy.
“The next day, her dad, Paul inquired what color of iPhone she wanted – like all teenagers, she loved her cell phone. She had been requesting for a new one just before her accident. Suddenly, Paul observed her miming ‘white’. He shouted! After that, she waxed in strength.”
It was Emily’s admittance to The Children’s Trust rehabilitation centre in Tadworth, Surrey, that really helped her recovery process.
Within one week of physio, Emily went from being in a wheelchair and being unable to talk, to walking properly and speaking fluently.
Jane, who is wedded to new spouse Ray after splitting up with Paul in 2004, says one of the memorable moments during her daughter’s recovery was when Emily traded roles with her and assisted her through her own health troubles.
“I tripped and broke my ankle. Because of that, I was fixed in a wheelchair, like Emily,” Jane says.
“ Two weeks later after arriving at the rehab center, it was Emily propelling me around.”
Now, Emily is 17, went home and attended a normal school where she made six GCSEs at grades A to C. She is now taking a college course in business studies and daydreams of being a banker like her mother.
Jane says: “People frequently ask how we survived all this and it’s tough to tell. But initially, we never lost hope that the doctors might be incorrect. And they were.
“Of course, the accident has left some lasting effects – Emily writes very sluggishly and finds it difficult to use her right hand. Luckily, her brain and memory are otherwise unharmed.
“She has always been a upright kid, but like all adolescents, before the accident she could be a little bit obstructive sometimes. Now she is more considerate and kind.
“She kicked off life as a little miracle, and after the accident we were fortunate enough to get another dose of miracle all over again.”