Emma Johnson has been hospitalized with a severe brain injury, unable to walk or talk, since the incident at her home off Highway 5, but her aunt, Sheila Adams, said Emma is expected to be back to normal in six to eight months.
“That’s what they’re hoping, but it could be less, could be longer,” Adams, the sister of Emma’s father, said Wednesday. “After they got her to where they knew she was going to survive, from that point on, they said everything else just depends on the patient, how fast things come back to them.”
Emma was air-lifted to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston Pediatric Hospital in critical condition after two mules got out of a neighbor’s pin and one of them kicked her. Emma was trying to help her mother put the animals away in her next-door neighbor’s corral until the owner could be found.
Since then, Adams says Emma has embarked on her long, hard road to returning to the smiling, laughing and “outdoorsy,” yet “girly,” girl she was before the incident.
“It’s not the plan you have for your 9-year-old,” Adams said. “It’s like watching them grow up all over again. She’s had her first smile, she said her first word, she took her first step.”
Adams said each of these moments is priceless to the family, as they watch their little girl returning. But it took weeks before they knew if Emma would ever be the same again.
Emma’s parents, David and Lisa Johnson, got the news Emma would eventually return to normal after about two weeks of waiting and a procedure to remove part of her skull to relieve swelling on her brain.
Most of the damage was to spots on the right side of Emma’s brain. Doctors have called the damaged tissue non-essential for a normal life, Adams said.
“It’s something you could live without or you could re-learn. But as far as walking, talking, speaking, all of that will come back,” Adams said.
Those functions have been slow to return for Emma, but Adams said they are coming back.
“Every day she gets better,” Adams said. “Every time we go, we can see a little more of her in her eyes. She talks to us with her eyes. She laughs.”
Adams has been visiting with Emma as much as she can and has missed some of her milestones, but she has been checking with the parents constantly for updates. She got one of the most exciting of those updates last week, when Emma said her first word since the incident.
It was Valentine’s Day and Emma’s father was at her bedside, trying to wake her in the morning. It was early, before 7 a.m., and Adams says Emma wasn’t quite ready to wake up.
Emma squirmed in bed and finally looked up and said, “Dad.”
“He was so excited,” Adams said. “I got a text message from him that morning that he had got the best Valentine’s Day present ever, that she had said ‘Dad.’ That was just so exciting to us. She’s in there. It’s just going to take a while.”
As Emma recovers, Adams says the parents have found peace and comfort in the small steps they watch her make toward going home and, in large part, their faith in God.
“Their faith has been amazing,” Adams said. “From day one, that’s what David has said: Even though it was a terrible accident, he had a peace that God was with them from the beginning. And they know that God is taking them through every single day.”