Emily's journey

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Sue Blake (pictured left) is Emily's mother. In this blog she details her daughter's ordeal and gives hope to others in a similar situation.

Nobody ever expects tragedies to enter their lives. Seeing them everyday on the news, I thought how sad, even shed a tear but I never really thought about the impact that such events have on a family. We just move on with our lives and those families become a distant memory.

For whatever reason, on 18th November, 2009 it was my family's turn to experience such a tragedy. Little did I expect that morning would be the last time I saw Emily skip happily along the driveway to catch the school bus.

I remember it so clearly, she was a vision of absolute beauty, cute with blonde pigtails bouncing in the breeze. As usual, I called out "you're beautiful, I love you." I then headed to work, I'm a nurse at a medical clinic.

Less than eight hours later I was reunited with Emily in the back of an ambulance, (another mother contacted me at work and I immediately drove to the scene). Emily was covered in blood, flailing arms about to be sedated and airlifted to Melbourne.

She was two bus stops from home when her bus had turned right into the pathway of an oncoming truck. Along with other children on the bus she was critically injured.

That was the moment I left my idyllic life, husband and three other children behind and accompanied Emily on her "journey".

In Melbourne, the full implications of Emily's injuries became apparent, she had multiple skull fractures, severe left sided brain injuries, lung contusions, and a left fractured femur (thigh bone). We were told she was gravely injured and may not make it. We stayed by her side, prayed, lived in hope, hour by hour, willing her to stay with us.

The Lord was watching over her (friends report seeing angels over her bed) and hours turned into days and then months. After three weeks in intensive care, two weeks in a high dependency ward and seven operations later, Emily started to emerge from her coma. But it was not my sweet little Emily, it was a child reduced to babyhood again, unable to talk, walk, eat or control her bodily functions. There was marked agitation, half a skull missing(removed to allow her injured brain to swell), multiple drugs, tubes and external fixations (metal pins and frame) attached to her leg.

The Royal Childrens Hospital rehabilitation team were outstanding. Each day through physiotherapy, speech therapy, occupational and music therapy sessions we noticed miniscule improvements in emily. Through a dedicated team of family and friends we stayed with Emily day and night, always someone familiar with her (which I feel greatly aided her recovery). After six months at RCH we were transferred to Southwest healthcare in Warrnambool.

It was here Emily really started to improve, she began eating normally, was toilet trained, and finally began to communicate with one or two words, we saw glimpes of her cheeky sense of humour and we began weekend visits to home.

After ten long months in hospital and house modifications Emily came home. We gradually reintroduced her to school, attended hydrotherapy, music therapy and other therapists visited her several times a week. As a family we had to not only adjust to the new Emily but to an invasion of our privacy with therapists and carers to help, entering our home on a daily basis.

Today, almost two years since the accident, I still grieve for my lost child and tears have been streaming down my face typing this, but I am also so thankful and blessed to have the "new Emily" by my side.

She continues to improve, speaking many new words and is now at school three days a week (with a fulltime integration aid). She walks unaided, can dress and feed herself, has learnt to write with her left hand, operates computers and enjoys "normal activities" for her age with her friends. We have a long way to go-but we have come so far.

To those who find themselves in similiar circumstances, never forget there is always hope and things will improve. Have faith and believe in miracles.

There is some reason Emily was chosen. As a family, to survive such an ordeal you need to learn to forgive, let go of any negative thoughts and focus on only the positives, however small they may be. Surround yourself with positive, loving family and friends, and don't be afraid to ask for help. As a family we are now so much stronger and united, and know what really matters in life.

We are so grateful to the expert medical care given to Emily by the Southwest intensive care paramedics, Royal Children's Hospital team, Southwest Healthcare team, Victorian Paediatric Rehabilitation Service, Geelong Hospital Orthopeadics, and our team of local therapists.

We would also like to thank the unbelievable support from family and friends and the fundraising efforts of our local Nullawarre and Warrnambool communities. Also thankyou to the Nullawarre Primary School for their outstanding efforts with Emily, and to Emily's amazing aid Kate.

Emily's recovery is an ongoing team effort. God bless you all

"Always remember that life is precious and everyday in this world is a privilege. Give time and praise to your family and never forget to say "I love you".

* All funds will be donated to Brainlink, a Victorian organisation that provides support, education and respite to people with brain injuries and their families www.brainlink.org.au

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