St Albans car crash girl’s miracle recovery
PUBLISHED: 18:56 16 June 2011
CROSSING the finishing line of the St Albans half marathon fun run on Sunday marked a huge step on the road to recovery for a teenager who was on the brink of death following a road traffic accident just over a year ago.
Nicki Freeman, 18, was so badly injured when her car left the road and hit a tree near Harpenden last June that her parents Peter and Pauline and brother Chris were warned to expect the worst.
But Nicki, who was sitting her A-levels at St Albans High School and had a place at Essex University when the accident happened, has proved to be a real fighter - and completing the fun run was a moment to treasure for her, her family and friends who were there to cheer her on.
Nicki’s delighted dad Peter described his feelings this week as, “elated, ecstatic, stunned and extremely grateful.”
He went on: “She made it all the way round and even tried what she referred to as a sprint finish but I don’t think it would challenge Usain Bolt.
“The biggest thing was her smile as she crossed the finish line. I have taken part in many races and been proud to complete them but this time my heart was breaking with tears of joy. She has come so far and has had so much help from people in the town.”
Nicki had picked up a school friend from Luton and was driving to Harpenden when the accident happened. It took 50 minutes to free her from the car and she remembers nothing of the accident - to this day her parents do not know how it happened except that she was driving along an unfamiliar road which could have been greasy in heavy rain after a period of hot sunshine.
Her family, who live in the Fleetville area of St Albans, had just got in to the Saracens vs Leicester game at Vicarage Road, Watford, that night when they heard about the accident. Peter said: “The most chilling words were when a policeman called and said how far away are you.”
Nicki had suffered two broken legs, a fractured pelvis and severe head injuries in the accident and was rushed unconscious to the Intensive Care Unit at the Luton and Dunstable Hospital before being transferred to the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London
She was suffering from pressure on the brain and had to have two sections of her skull removed but the pressure slowly got back under control. On her eighteenth birthday, she was transferred to an ordinary ward but physically there was little she was able to do.
In August Nicki was transferred again to the Regional Rehabilitation Unit at Northwick Park Hospital which Peter credits for taking her physical condition forward to the extent that, to the amazement of her friends, she was able to go to the High School prize-giving last December and receive her leavers certificate.
For the last two months she has been under a team of specialists at QEF Neuro Rehabilitation Services’ Brain Injury Centre in Banstead - and it is to raise money for QEF - Queen Elizabeth’s Foundation for Disabled People - that she took part in Sunday’s fun run, completing it in under 36 minutes.
The team there has been doing amazing work on her cognitive abilities - “giving her independent life back” as Peter puts it - but her father admits that no-one knows exactly what the future will hold.
He explained: “The brain is an astonishing thing which has the ability to recover but not necessarily as fast and in the direction you anticipate.
“We have never allowed ourselves the luxury of looking forward. The only way to stay sane is to deal with it one day at a time.”
Although, by Peter’s own admission, Nicki will never be the person she was before the accident, her family are just grateful that she has made such a good recovery - and Sunday was their proudest moment to date.
So far Nicki has raised over £2,000 for QEF from the fun run and would welcome more donations to www.justgiving.com/TeamNicki.