Jadae was left in a persistent vegetative state and the 32-year-old kitchen assistant was brutally told by doctors she would be no more than a ‘head in a bed’.
Here the mum-of-three, from Luton, tells how her plucky daughter proved them wrong.
September 20, 2015 is a date that is etched into my memory forever. I had popped over the road to friend, where my middle child Jadae, then seven, was playing outside the house with one of her friends. Suddenly my friend heard a strange noise and said: “What was that?”
I looked out of her window to see a young boy running up our street, shouting: “Call an ambulance.”
My blood ran cold – had something happened to my little girl?
Rushing outside, I found Jadae unconscious on the road – she was wedged beneath a parked car, where she’d been knocked by the force of a collision with a car travelling at around 30mph.
She had a severe head injury, a broken clavicle and a fractured ankle.
Jadae was taken by air ambulance to a specialist head injury hospital, and put in an induced coma. Surgeons operated to fix a bolt to her skull to monitor the pressure inside her brain.
Family and friends looked after my other kids Jermayi (now 12) and Jahzel (now 8), while I sat at her bedside.
For days, Jadae just lay there, unmoving, with a machine breathing for her, being fed by tube, and surrounded by beeping monitors and machines.
A week after the accident, a doctor told me: “There has been no improvement. We’re not sure if there’s anything else we can do to help your daughter.” I replied: “Find something.”
But weeks came and went, and still Jadae remained completely unresponsive.
Desperate for some sign of life in her, doctors even tried putting strong-tasting foods like hot mustard and chilli in her mouth, to see if she’d react – but nothing.
I was scared she was never coming back. But I kept hoping and praying.
Six weeks after the accident one doctor came to me and said: “Your daughter is in a persistent vegetative state. She is not going to improve. As her mother, you need to accept that she’ll never again be anything more than a head in a bed.”
What is The Children's Trust?
Every year over 40,000 children in the UK are left with a brain injury as a result of an accident or illness, according to NHS England. This is known as acquired brain injury.
Many children make a good recovery, but thousands have to live with ongoing, long-term difficulties. Some children are left with severe physical difficulties or learning difficulties.
The Children's Trust is the UK's leading charity for children with brain injury.
The trust provides rehabilitation, education and community services through skilled teams who work with children and young people, and their families.
Music therapy is a key part of the trust’s work.
The Children’s Trust has just launched its Extraordinary Music Box Appeal. To donate, go to www.thechildrenstrust.org.uk
I was furious. Felt myself turn bright red. I couldn’t believe he’d used such cruel, insensitive words about my child as to call her “a head in a bed”.
I snapped: “Don’t talk like that about my little girl. You don’t know her, you have no idea about what she’s capable of,” and marched out.
But the truth is, I could see no improvement in her either, and I feared he might be right.
I couldn’t believe he’d used such cruel, insensitive words about my child as to call her 'a head in a bed'
After two months in that hospital, Jadae was transferred to another hospital, closer to our family home, so I could visit her more easily.
By the end of a month there, she was showing small signs of response, and could lift her head off the pillow to kiss her favourite teddy bear.
But she still wasn’t talking, couldn’t sit up unaided, was unable to stand or walk, or feed herself, and needed to be fed through a tube.
In December 2015, three months after the accident, Jadae was moved again – this time to a specialist rehabilitation centre in Tadworth, Surrey, run by The Children’s Trust, Britain’s leading charity for children with brain injury.
Thankfully, with the trust’s expert help, within days of arrival she had started to improve.
One morning, in January 2016, a nurse told me: “Jadae asked for a cup of tea.”
At first I didn’t believe it. After all, Jadae hadn’t spoken a word for three months – and didn’t even like tea!
But later that day, I was sitting with her and asked: “Can you say my name?” She mumbled quietly: “Caroline.” Then when I asked more questions, she named every member of our immediate family.
I burst into tears of happiness – it felt like a miracle.
Oddly enough, before the accident she never drank tea but ever since she began to recover, she has at least two cups a day.
Jadae spent six months at The Children’s Trust receiving intensive therapy, rebuilding her strength, coordination and balance. A combination of physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech and language and specialist play activities saw her come on in leaps and bounds.
In occupational therapy she practised tasks like dressing up, baking and washing up.
Her favourite game was the ‘shopping game’ where staff created a shopping list and Jadae had to find every item on the shelves. While playing, she was having fun – but she was also practising her reaching, grabbing and hand-eye coordination without even realising it.
She had other therapy designed to help her walk again, using frames and parallel bars.
But it was perhaps the music therapy that was most enjoyable for her.
Jadae joined the trust’s Glitter Group, where a play team helped the kids to learn songs and put on performances.
As her speech improved, she even did a solo performance before staff and parents one day, singing It’s a Hard Knock Life. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
Music could always lift Jadae’s mood, during those very difficult times.
Although still in a wheelchair, with challenges to her mobility and movement, she was keen to make up dance routines with the other girls. I suppose music therapy helped her focus on what she could do, rather than what she couldn’t.
By the time Jadae left the Children’s Trust, nine months after her accident, she could walk independently again, a few steps at a time.
Today, three years on, she is back at her mainstream primary school and uses a wheelchair only when she is tired or has to walk further distances.
However, she’s due to move to a specialist school for children with disabilities, in the near future.
My beautiful, brave little girl has come so far. When she left the trust, she was talking fluently again, but her speech was indistinct and people often couldn’t understand her.
Now her speech is so much clearer.
Of course, there are lasting effects from the accident – she tires easily and everything is that little bit harder for her, than for other children.
How does music therapy work?
Dr Jonathan Pool, a music therapist who worked with Jadae, says: “In these sessions, each child works on their own needs while also being part of a group experience; collaborating on musical pieces, practicing attention training exercises and shared their experiences.
“Music therapy helped Jadade address many issues resulting from her accident – including included concentration, self-expression, arm and hand movements and the use of her voice.
“She loved to play percussion and sing, and enjoyed strumming a guitar’s strings while a music therapist held the chords and sang the lyrics.
“Through music therapy, Jadae improved her ability to concentrate and was able to participate in groups – a useful way of preparing children and young people for their return to their community and to school.
“At first, she found it difficult to concentrate in the group and participate. But though music therapy she developed her confidence to express herself musically and then use her voice to share her thoughts with her peers.”
Jadae owes her recovery to the specialist help she got at The Children’s Trust but it’s a charity, partly relying on donations to keep it going.
I want to tell her story to thank the trust and show what’s possible, if children with brain injuries just get the right help.
When I see my daughter now, thinking of how much she has achieved and how hard she tries, I am incredibly proud of her.
But I still look back and remember that doctor’s cruel words when he described her future as nothing more than a head in a bed and realise how close she came to being written off.
Thanks heavens there were other wonderful, positive people there to stop that happening.
For more information go to the www.thechildrenstrust.org.uk
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