Dreaming to walk again

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“I would love to be able to walk arm in arm with a friend to my car, then walk into the pub and sit down on a chair, and leave my wheelchair in the corner.”

At 8.30 one morning in September 2006, a 17-year-old Emily Darbyshire walked to her parents’ room with an ‘agonising headache’.

By 12.30pm that day she was fighting for her life in intensive care at East Surrey Hospital.

Emily’s mother and father, Gill and Bill, waited in angst for the 62 days that Emily was on life support with meningitis and encephalitis.

“When she was in her coma, the doctor said ‘we know there’s brain damage but we don’t know how bad’,” Gill said. “The first time they woke her up we asked her to respond by squeezing our hand.

“She squeezed my hand and from that point we knew she was going to be OK - in that she understood - but it didn’t become apparent she couldn’t move or speak until later.”

It soon became evident that Emily’s brain damage had caused a loss of motor skills meaning she had to relearn how to talk and move.

Emily said: “I remember thinking that I didn’t understand why I couldn’t speak. I knew how to do it, I just couldn’t get the words out.”

Now, at the age of 23, Emily is almost fully recovered and studying Business Management at The University of Birmingham and feels held back by her wheelchair.

“I want to be able to go out and talk to people, like I used to be able to do,” she said. “I want to be able to walk out the door and down the street and have people look at me and smile, not stare.”

Emily’s dream could become a reality with the use of special equipment to help her to regain strength and balance.

In an aim to raise funds for Meningitis Trust - and hoping for a donation towards the £8,000 walking apparatus - Emily’s family hosted a garden party on Saturday June 23 and five of her friends and family joined the British 10km run in London on Sunday (July 8) and raised over £1,600.

Gill explained: “Every day is hard when you are in a wheelchair but I will go to the ends of the earth to give Emily what she wants.”

Sophie Nason, 23, Emily’s friend who took part in the sponsored run, said: “I’ve thought so many times ‘why did it have to happen to her?’ We were so young with so much coming up but Emily is so strong and brave and has not let it stop her.

“I have seen Emily put her life back together piece by piece, never giving up and remaining the same fun, lively person that she always has been. She’s an inspiration.”

If anyone wishes to donate please contact Nikki Cutler by email at nikki.cutler@sussexnewspapers.co.uk or by calling 01403 751216.