LYING fighting for her life in intensive care, this is the moment little Jessica Bootes’ parents realised their lives had changed forever.
A month ago, the four-year-old was involved in a five-car pile-up at Lindisfarne Roundabout, in Jarrow, and today still remains in Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary.
The devastating impact of the crash – where her face smashed into father Chris Bootes’ seat – has left the tot with the left side of her skull missing, paralysis down the right side of her body and a loss of speech.
Jessica faces a further six months of rehabilitation in hospital
Today, her mum, Lisa Orrock, wants Gazette readers to see how bravely her daughter is coping and to thank those who came to the family’s aid after the horror smash.
The 31–year–old, from Centenary Avenue, Harton, South Shields, who is also mum to Josh, 12, said: “We had the perfect family, we were hard working, looking forward to a family holiday abroad, we had it all.
“But within seconds, this crash happened and it’s taken that away from us.
“While we are so thankful that Jessica has survived, it’s hard knowing that we used to have a healthy little girl who was an independent chatterbox, the apple of everyone’s eye.
“Now our daughter is paralysed down her right side, she cannot run about, she needs help doing everything. You just cannot help but think ‘Why us?’”
The family were heading to Asda Boldon at 6.30pm on Tuesday, March 4, in their Volkswagen Polo, with Jessica protected in a child seat, when they were hit from behind by a taxi.
The force of the collision sent their car, which was stationary at the time and about to head onto the A19, into the vehicle in front.
Chris, 36, a heavy goods driver, who is also father to Ryan, 16, said: “Lisa was driving and I was in the passenger seat. The crash just happened so quickly. I couldn’t get to Jessica because I couldn’t move my arm, I’d broken it.
“Jessica was having seizures, but the other motorists saved her life by pulling her free and placing her on her right side.
“Already, the left side of her head had swollen because of her brain injury, her nose and cheek bones were broken, she was in such a mess. But we are forever grateful for their quick thinking.”
Jessica was taken to Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary, where she was placed in an induced coma for 11 days and given a blood transfusion, as she had lost 40 per cent of her own supply.
Her parents were told the next 48 hours were crucial, due the swelling on her brain, and she underwent surgery as the smashed pieces of her skull were removed.
As Jessica’s recovery started, Lisa and Chris were able to see the full extent of the injuries. Jessica must wear a protective hat during her rehabilitation.
Lisa said: “The brain is a strange thing, nobody knows how it will respond or behave. Jessica is now unable to feel down her right side, but she just gets on with it.
“She has basically become a baby again. She’s having to learn how to talk and she’s back in nappies. She can say some words, but she has no idea what they actually mean. It’s hard, very hard.”
Jessica, who is a pupil at Harton Nursery in East Avenue, South Shields, has a place to start Harton Primary in September.
But now, until her health progresses, it’s unclear if she will yet be able to attend.
Lisa added: “We used to make plans and think ahead, but a doctor said to us, don’t take each day as it comes, take each hour. That’s what we do now.”
The family would like to thank fellow motorists and passers-by Karl Jackson, his son Josh, Elaine Criddle and Darren Black for their help in the aftermath of the collision.
A 34-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of causing serious injury by dangerous driving after the crash. He has been released on police bail pending further inquiries until May 17.
Jessica’s facing a long battle ahead
THE road to recovery is going to be long and hard for little Jessica.
Although it’s hoped she will soon be able to start weekend visits home, doctors at Newcastle’s RVI have said she will need at least another six months of rehabilitation in hospital.
Mum Lisa, who will have to give her sales job up to care for her daughter, said: “We’re doing physiotherapy now to try and build up her strength, to hopefully get her walking again one day, and we’re trying to teach her to talk again. “But the worst thing is, when they re-open her head, to place the new piece of skull in, there’s no guarantee we won’t be back to square one, and have to start all over again.
“The one good thing is that she does have age on her side.”
Jessica depends on a wheelchair and her home will have to be modified with ramps and a conservatory so she can get about. The family will also have to fund a specially-adapted car.
So far the Children’s Head Injury Equipment Fund (Chief) have funded the chairs she needs.
Aunt Catherine Bootes, 40, from South Shields, is being sponsored to have her head shaved and will be donating funds to Chief and also Crawford House – which provides Jessica’s parents a convenient place to get changed and showered, while they care for their daughter around the clock.
The event will be held at Remix Hair Salon, in Prince Edward Road, South Shields, next month.
To sponsor her, visit www.justgiving.com/Catherine-Adams2. Donations can also be left at Remix and the Little Sweet Shop in Fowler Street, South Shields.