Tuesday, June 04, 2002

Once comatose teen graduates


Brooks walks five weeks after crash

By Michael D. Clark, mclark@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MONROE — Hannah Brooks' dream of graduating with her high school classmates came true Monday evening — five weeks after she survived a nightmarish crash that left her comatose for more than a week.

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Hannah Brooks wears her graduation gown in the school parking with fellow senior Christina Cunningham.
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Hannah's car after her April 26 crash.
(Michael Snyder photos)
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        Driving from Lemon-Monroe High School after classes on April 26, Ms. Brooks improperly turned in front of a tractor-trailer at Ohio 63 and Yankee Road, which plowed into her side of her car.

        Paramedics found her unconscious and not breathing. CareFlight helicopter whisked her to Dayton's Miami Valley Hospital where doctors decided her severe head trauma and brain swelling could best be controlled by extending the National Honor Society student's coma.

        On May 7 she awoke to a world of love and affection that had flowed to her hospital room from friends, classmates and concerned Monroe residents. The 18-year-old choir singer and track team member was overwhelmed both her amazing recovery and the support she received.

        Monroe Police Chief Ernest Howard vividly recalls being at the accident scene, and speculating that Ms. Brooks was doomed.

        Though she was wearing a seat belt, “I didn't see how she could have survived,” he said.

        Dr. Lisa Patterson, associate director of trauma for Miami Valley Hospital, said Ms. Brooks' head injuries were extensive and could easily have proven fatal.

        “I think the fact that she woke up and now is completely back to normal is outstanding,” she said.

        On Monday, Ms. Brooks walked, with only slight unsteadiness, to the podium to receive her diploma. That brought a standing ovation from classmates and parents at the Living Word Church in Middletown.

        “I actually felt energized, which is great because I haven't felt like this in forever,” she said, smiling.

        “This is definitely a miracle,” she said of her recovery to date.

        She felt good enough to be a Baccalaureate speaker Sunday in a school ceremony at Monroe Presbyterian Church, and with the help of a prolonged nap pushed herself to attend both Monday's morning graduation rehearsal and evening ceremony.

        Her mother, Tammy Brooks, said the concern of the community has deeply touched her.

        “Everybody at Monroe has been great,” she said.

        Lemon-Monroe Principal Bob Quisenberry said the outpouring of concern, gifts, well-wishes and prayers in recent weeks was extraordinary but understandable given Ms. Brooks' personality.

        “She is an outstanding honor student and one of the most popular girls in the school,” he said.

        Fellow graduating senior Nathaniel Russell was in the back seat of Ms. Brooks' car and also was hurt, but not as seriously. Still sporting a neck brace from the accident, Nathaniel recalled visiting his friend and whispering a pledge to the comatose patient that she would not miss her graduation.

        Still facing months of rehabilitation, Ms. Brooks is nevertheless optimistic about her future, which will eventually include college.

        “God lets things happen for a reason,” she said, “and I really think he has something planned for me.”

       



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