IT was the Christmas they feared they’d never see.
But as little Jessica Bootes opened heaps of presents from Santa yesterday, her parents are counting their blessings that their miracle daughter still alive.
The brave five-year-old from Harton, South Shields, was left with horrific injuries after a five-car pile-up at Lindisfarne Roundabout, Jarrow, in March.
Nine months on, Jessica is back at school and thriving, despite needing an operation in the New Year and being left with paralysis of her right arm.
Her mum Lisa Orrock, who lives with partner Chris Bootes and their son Josh, 13, said: “This was the best Christmas ever for us.
“A few months ago we didn’t even know if we’d have a daughter to celebrate Christmas with. She’s a little miracle and an inspiration to us all.
“We’ve went all out this year, especially with the decorations.
“What’s happened has shown us that you just don’t know what’s around the corner.
Jessica spent almost four months in Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary following the crash which resulted in her being catapulted into the back of her father’s seat.
The impact caused the left side of her skull to shatter, paralysis down the right side of her body and a loss of speech.
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 to the swelling on her brain, and she underwent surgery as the smashed pieces of her skull were removed.
Miss Orrock, 32, said: “It was the worst time imaginable for all of us. But Jessica has more fight in her than most adults and she’s continued to fight every day since.
“Her speech is now doing really well. She still has leg splints on to help with her mobility, but her right arm is paralysed.
“However, this doesn’t stop her– she just gets on with things. For Christmas she asked for a bike, so Santa brought her a specially-adapted trike.”
In September, Jessica underwent surgery to replace her missing section of skull with an artificial piece.
However, four weeks later she contracted an infection and it was discovered that the operation hadn’t been a success.
She will be back at the RVI on January 5 to be measured and the operation will be rescheduled. Lisa said: “The new piece of skull wasn’t a perfect fit, so in January she will be measured again and the operation will take place within six weeks, so there will be less time for growth.
“The good news is that while the artificial skull isn’t perfect, it means she doesn’t have to wear her helmet to protect her brain.”
Because of the crash Jessica had to transfer to Bamburgh School in Horsley Hill, from Harton Nursery.
But despite the changes, the youngster has settled in well.
Miss Orrock said: “Jessica loves school, she has so many new friends and she was Mary in the school’s nativity.
“She’s come on in leaps and bounds. In fact, she loves it so much she wanted all her hair cut off so she looked like her teacher Mrs Wardle.”
She added: “We will always be so grateful to everyone, from the people who helped us at the scene of the crash, to all the medics who have assisted with Jessica’s recovery and care. We can’t thank them enough.”
n Following the crash, taxi driver Amir Azad, 35, of Lilac Avenue, Cleadon Park, South Shields, pleaded guilty to careless driving at South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court and was fined £250 with six points added to his licence.
In June, South Tyneside Council revoked Azad’s Hackney Carriage taxi licence, and despite an appeal, the decision was upheld in October.
n Voice of South Tyneside ... Page 6