A U.K. woman who was left brain dead after a car accident is being a called a "walking miracle" after she came back to life moments before doctors were about to turn off her life-support machine for good.
Sam Hemming, 22, of Credenhill, Hereford in England, got into a car accident July 20 while traveling with her boyfriend, the Daily Mail reported. She was left brain dead with “no hope of recovery.”
The impact from the crash caused her head to smash through the window, breaking four bones in her neck. She was airlifted to an area hospital, where surgeons worked on her for six hours before placing her in a medically-induced coma.
After 19 days, doctors told Hemming’s parents to prepare for the worst. They suggested switching off her life-support machine after she was confirmed brain dead.
“We gathered in her room and said our farewells,” Hemming’s mother, Carol, 44, told the Daily Mail. “They turned the life support machine off and I screamed.”
But just after they turned the life support machine off, something happened. Carol said her daughter “literally came back from the dead.”
“They turned the life support back on and over the next few days the doctors tried turning if off two more times,” Carol explained. “They usually give a patient three attempts to see if they can breathe on their own before switching if for good and letting the patient die but before they switched it off for a final time one of her specialists said her big toe wiggled.”
A medic had accidentally brushed Sam’s toe with a cold wipe.
“The computer showed some brain activity. It was amazing,” Carol recalled. “She would have had the heat and cold test before they switched the machine off but they brushed it across her toe earlier than expected and it saved her.
“They'd done the tests all over her body the day they were going to turn her life support off for the last time and again the results showed there was no brain activity.
“It's amazing because the only time the tests showed a positive result was when the ice-cold wipe brushed her toe by accident.
“No one knows why all the other tests were negative but brain injuries are complex and unpredictable.”
“She was responding to heat so there was still some brain function,” Carol added. “It was amazing. She had literally come back from the dead. If she hadn't wiggled her toe she wouldn't be here today.”
Sam was eventually able to breathe on her own and was cleared to return home eight weeks later. She learned how to walk and talk again, and currently lives with her parents.
Sam's remarkable recovery shocked her parents and doctors alike.
“Doctors are totally in shock. You see the [specialized] surgeons, paramedics and police and they look at Sammy and you see their mouths fall open,” Carol added. “Her condition is different to other people because of the part of the brain which most people don't use - hers has developed into speech and movement.
“That is why all the neurosurgeons were getting so excited as it is very rarely seen. Because of the steps she has taken, she is a walking miracle. Doctor's are totally in shock.”
Carol has given up work to care for her daughter full-time, The Sun reported.
“It was horrible seeing one of your kids lying in a bed with so many injuries because everything above her chest was injured,” said the mother of four. “I never cried so much in my life. The paramedic who was at the scene and [who had] stayed with her right from the beginning said to me, ‘She's not supposed to be alive.’"
“It's slow progress but Sam is determined to get better and wants to practice law. She's already beaten huge odds to be here today so there's no reason why she shouldn't amaze us all again.”
Sam currently undergoes daily physiotherapy and is receiving treatment for PTSD. Doctors are also working to help her brain develop more functions.
She has spoken out since her miraculous recovery.
“I can't remember the crash at all but I know I was coming home at the time,” she said. “I can remember graduating and that's it really. When I look at the pictures of me in the coma it seems unreal and when I hear that my toe saved me it's amazing.
“I'm hugely grateful for all the medical staff who have helped me. I can walk in short bursts and I have a walking frame and wheelchair to help me when I'm feeling weaker.
“My talking is fine and I just want to get better now. Before the accident I wanted to be a solicitor and that ambition hasn't changed. I still want a career in the law.”