Teenager with severe brain injury after crash into 12ft ditch rebuilds her life
- Credit: Rachel Edge
Georgia Wood was left with one of the most severe brain injuries imaginable after a Suffolk road crash two years ago left her paralysed and in a coma for 26 days. The 19-year-old of Woodbridge tells ANDREW PAPWORTH about how she fought for her life.
As road crash victim Georgia Wood recovered in hospital from a devastating brain injury which would change her life forever, she would often write on a whiteboard: "What has happened to me?"
Writing was one of the few things Georgia could do at that time, for the late night crash - where the car she was travelling in left the road and ended up in a 12ft ditch in Hasketon, near Woodbridge - left her so badly paralysed she could not speak or walk.
After being cut out of the car and driven at high speed down the A14 for emergency specialist care at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge - because there wasn't an air ambulance available - she would spend the next 26 days in a coma, fighting for her life.
Over the next four months doctors in the neurological critical care unit (NCCU) feared Georgia may never walk again, shattering the then 17-year-old's dreams of studying at university.
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She described the pain she went through coming to terms with the emotional impact of that devastating crash, saying: "When I was in hospital, I had a whiteboard where I would write stuff because I couldn't speak.
"I would write stuff down nearly every day, sometimes twice a day, where I would ask questions like: 'What has happened to me?'
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"I would ask the same questions every day. It was a mixture between me forgetting the answer and remembering the answer but not wanting to believe it.
"For me, it was like waking up from a bad dream."
But two years on, while still suffering from diffuse axonal injury (DAI) and the speech and movement difficulties that come with it, Georgia has slowly but surely learned how to walk and talk again.
As well as speech therapy and counselling, she has had intensive physiotherapy to rebuild the pathways in her brain - which were damaged by a series of small haemorrhages in the crash and meant that she had forgotten how to do simple tasks.
Her vision was also severely damaged, although this was greatly improved by a subsequent operation.
"Because I was wearing the back middle lap belt, I didn't have anything protecting the movement of my head so I got really bad concussion," said Georgia, of Warren Hill Road, Woodbridge.
"The first time I walked started with a few steps with a person either side of me, with me holding on to each of their arms.
"All these therapies made me really tired. I had to rebuild the pathways in my brain and that takes a lot of energy."
There were days when she felt like she was getting nowhere but she said: "I'd just try as hard as I could."
And while she still describes her walking as "pretty wobbly", finds lots of movements hard and has difficulty speaking fast, she is gradually rebuilding her life.
She said: "I did want to go to university but I feel it would be pretty difficult for me now, because I'm not as good at writing or thinking - it's limited."
However she has described how mastering everyday tasks, even those as small as tying her hair in a ponytail, have felt like major achievements - and that her improvement has enabled her to study an art and design course at Suffolk One.
And on Saturday, June 16 she will show just what a remarkable recovery she has made when she completes a skydive at Ellough Airfield, near Beccles, to raise money for the East Anglian Air Ambulance (EAAA).
Now 19, Georgia not only wants to raise money for the EAAA as a thank you for saving her life but also help them to become a 24-hour service, to ensure others can get to hospital quicker in similar life-or-death situations.
On the JustGiving page for her skydive, she said: "I was extremely lucky in 2017 to cross paths with the East Anglian Air Ambulance, at a time when I needed it most.
"They are an incredible organisation whose calm, dedicated and passionate care can truly make you feel safe in the scariest of times.
"Unfortunately though, the air ambulance relies only on donations from the public to carry on doing the genuinely heroic job that they do."
She added: "They would've got to me quicker if they were able to fly the helicopter 24 hours. I want to raise as much money as I can to help them be a 24-hour service."
So far Georgia's JustGiving page has raised nearly £1,500. To donate, visit the page here.