It was just after 6pm on Monday 16th January 2006 when the phone rang. It was the call every parent dreads. The voice at the other end of the phone was telling me that our daughter had been involved in a road traffic accident, whilst on her gap year in Ghana. They were not sure that she would survive the night. Within three hours we were on a plane, journeying into a nightmare, robbed of all certainty except the unrelenting pain that held us in its fierce embrace. As a Consultant was later to say to us, we had to understand that what had happened to our daughter’s body, and in particular her brain, was like a blancmange hitting a wall.
Beyond all hope, after 14 units of blood, two and a half weeks unconscious in intensive care and five and a half months in hospital, our beloved daughter walked back into our home – a slight limp, some significant scars but every inch our wonderful, beautiful Anna. And two months after that she began student life at Sheffield University. And every day for the last ten years and every day for the rest of my life I thank God for the re-gifting of our daughter.
Thank you to the taxi driver who got her to hospital, to the staff at Cape Coast Hospital who kept her alive, to two brave nurses who although unwell themselves managed to give her between them her first vital unit of blood, to the TPA (Teaching & Projects Abroad) volunteers who scoured Cape Coast in search of suitable blood donors, to the Ghanaian Army who air lifted Anna to the Military Hospital in Accra and the wonderful medical team there.
Thank you to the wonderful staff at TPA and of the Insurance company who pulled out all the stops to look after both Anna and us and for whom nothing was too much trouble, to Brian and Tricia who drove us to Heathrow and to a wonderful Virgin Airways staff member who escorted us through the airport when we were too dazed to know what we were doing, to a kind, gentle member of the British Embassy in Accra who escorted us wherever we needed to go, to an unknown nurse in Paris who was on the phone to talk us through everything that was happening whenever we needed to ask.
Thank you to the crew of the Swiss air ambulance jet that flew in essential blood supplies and then evacuated Anna back to the UK, the team at Farnborough Airport, and the local ambulance waiting for us, to the amazing staff at the Royal Surrey County Hospital, the ITU staff, the wonderful Bramshott Ward and numerous consultants who kept her alive and healed her, and the team at Haselmere Hospital who got her walking again.
Thank you to family, our friends and Anna’s wonderful loyal friends, and colleagues who between them wrote cards, sent messages, kept us going and held us in prayer, and strangers, in this country and beyond, who understood, who cared and prayed as well, to Mandy, Mary, Adrian and Betsy who kept the parish going, to Archdeacon Stuart, who was always there when needed, to Marion who delivered endless food parcels.
Thank you to those who with the passing of time we may have forgotten but who in any way were there for us, showed us kindness, smiled or just gave us space, and to the wonderful Steph who has now brought love into Anna’s life: to each and everyone deep, deep gratitude.
Many who journeyed alongside us spoke of a miracle and we would not disagree. But we also know this…One TPA asking for blood donors in Cape Coast, was told by a local, “you are only doing this because it is white girl”. And in a sense that person was right and we accept that in part our daughter survived because she was White, European and Middle Class with all the privileges and benefits that brings. But she also survived because we were privileged at every step of the way to see the very best of humanity – everyone we met along the way simply gave of their all to help our daughter. And that is the real miracle; when human beings work together there is almost nothing they cannot achieve.
Miracle or not, everyday I give thanks for the re-gifting of our daughter.