THE family of an Accrington schoolgirl who was left brain-damaged when she fell out of a tree while looking for conkers are hoping that she will be back home by Christmas.
Vanessa Milek, 13, suffered serious head injuries, a broken wrist and damage to her kidney, spleen and pancreas in the accident, which happened five weeks ago at Milnshaw Park, and she was in intensive care for three weeks. But the 13-year-old has so amazed doctors at the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital with her progress that they believe she could be well enough to spend Christmas Day at home with her family.
Her mum Angela, of Westwood Street, Accrington, said that in the past week Vanessa had started speaking and eating, and had even managed to stand up with the help of physiotherapists. And although she will need intensive therapy to set her on the road to recovery, she is also able to smile, wave, operate her personal stereo and recognise visitors and staff on her specialist neurosurgical ward.
Angela said: "Vanessa is now able to speak in complete sentences and, alth-ough she does get a bit confused with some of her words, we are able to understand what she's saying. She has also been down to the physiotherapy unit, which is like a big gym, and she was able to throw a netball but it did tire her out.
"Some of the actors from Coronation Street came to visit the ward on Sunday, including Jason and Sarah-Lou, and she recognised them instantly. The first thing she said was 'Jason'. She was just gobsmacked to see them. The doctors are very pleased with her progress and, although they've told us not to get our hopes up, they think she might be home, or at least in Queen's Park Hospital, by Christmas. That would be wonderful."
Her grandmother Gloria Milek, of Avenue Parade, Accrington, said that Van-essa's classmates from St Christopher's High School had also been to visit their "outgoing and bubbly" pal.
She added: "When she started talking again, the first thing she did was ask for music - we were just so surprised as she hadn't said anything at all up to that point. We had hoped that she might be home for her birthday in November, but she is still doing wonderfully well and we are thrilled with her progress."