14-year-old Lily from Tonyrefail really is the most inspiring young person. Her determination to recover from a brain injury which nearly cost her life has been an inspiration to everyone who knows her.
Prior to Lily’s injury, sport was her life. If she wasn’t trampolining, she was power lifting and in her spare time she would be in the gym. She was a very active 14-year-old who was gearing up for her GCSEs. That was until June 2022, where she awkwardly landed on her head during trampolining practice.
Lily said: “After that I started having severe headaches for a few days which resulted in double vision, feeling very dizzy and uneasy on my feet. We put it down to vertigo originally, but as it got worst my parents rushed me to the Royal Glamorgan Hospital after consulting with 111. By this point I had been sick with the pain from the headache and could not walk into A&E.
“It was then that I had a brain scan that showed I had a brain aneurysm that was about to rupture. 20 or so people flooded into the room and surrounded me to take a closer look at the scan.”
From there, the family were told they needed to be airlifted to Bristol Children’s Hospital because Lily wouldn’t make it in time by road. Mum Karen said: “I kept thinking, make it in time for what? By this point we knew it wasn’t vertigo and knew it was serious, but we still didn’t know what was going on.”
The aneurysm in Lily’s brain ruptured a few hours later causing a brain bleed. The aneurysm was coiled to stop the swelling on the brain and Lily spent the next four days in an induced coma in the paediatric intensive care unit.
Karen said: “Over the next few days, we were told Lily was critical and were given the devastating news that they may need to withdraw life support. If she were to wake up, she would be brain dead or severely disabled and she was given under a five per cent chance of a full recovery.”
Lily’s parents Karen and Mark were told that the aneurysm had been there for years and that if it had not been for the accident while trampolining and the timing that led them to be in hospital when it ruptured, it was highly unlikely that Lily would have survived at all. Ironically, they had been at the right place at the right time.
After a several days in an induced coma, Lily began to wake up and would open and close her eyes if mum Karen was talking to her or playing a playlist her twin brother James had made for her. Karen said: “Lily looked at me and blinked deliberately as if she understood what I was saying,. Then I asked her to blink if you can understand me and she blinked.
“Over the next few days, we communicated by blinking for yes and no. From there she progressed to slightly nodding her head and then moving her left arm.”
The family were elated. After thinking the worst that Lily might be brain dead, she was able communicate!
Over the weeks to come Lily’s personality began to shine through more and more. She started rolling her eyes at her mum and dad, wanting to watch Love Island and loved having her hair and nails done.
Karen said: “It was the most horrendous experience of my entire life. I kept asking if she would live but then the most amazing moment happened when she had the tracheostomy removed. Lily’s first words were “I love you, Mum.””
Lily was recovering so well that she was moved to high dependency where she progressed even further.
Being a highly motivated 14-year-old girl and wanting to impress her twin brother, James, Lily was determined to show off to her brother at his next visit. During a physiotherapy session while still on HDU, she amazed everyone by standing for the first time with the aid of tilting table.
After four weeks at Bristol Children’s Hospital, Lily was transported to the Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospital to continue her recovery with an intensive 12-week neuro rehabilitation programme. Her doctors were amazed by the progress she had already made and were confident in getting her back to where she was so determined to be, and back to her sports.
Lily said: “The Noah’s Ark team couldn’t have been better. They did everything to accommodate me and helped in more ways that just physical. They used my love for sport to motivate me to push myself to make a full recovery.”
Lily has now been signed off from many areas of her rehabilitation programme but is continuing to recover at home with the support of her physiotherapy team at Noah’s Ark. She says: “I am feeling really good. I feel more confident than before, and I really appreciate life now and how everything has slotted back into place.
“Apart from my right foot which is taking a little more work to get back to normal I have made a full recovery and hope to get back to power lifting soon and coaching trampolining soon. My goals for the future are to become a personal trainer and physiotherapist for sports injury.”
In recognition of her incredible determination and strength during her recovery Lily was made a youth ambassador for the Noah’s Ark Charity. She now hopes to become a buddy for other young adults and children who have experienced brain injury to give them hope that it is possible to make a full recovery.
And now six months later Lily is that five per cent, she has made a full recovery and we are all so proud of how hard she has worked, well done Lily!