Something to be proud of...

As Kelsey McTaggart lay motionless on a hospital bed, doctors told her distraught family there was little they could do for her.

The teenager, who lives in Ashill, near Watton, had suffered a brain haemorrhage on her way home from school and was in an induced coma.

But, just 18 months on, miraculous does not seem too strong a word to describe her amazing recovery. And having passed 13 GCSEs this summer, Kelsey has picked up a youth award for outstanding achievement.

In March 2009, the teenager, who was 15 at the time, woke up with a splitting headache and headed to school, hoping it would go away.

By the end of the day her mother Caroline knew there was something seriously wrong and rushed her to the local surgery, which called 999.

Paramedics battled to resuscitate her in the ambulance and, by the time she reached the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, Kelsey's admission papers described her as 'pre-morbid'.

Mrs McTaggart, a mother-of-three, said: 'The consultant said: 'You need to get your family here'.'

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As father Neil, a former flight sergeant, raced to the N&N from RAF Marham, Kelsey's brain cavity was filling with blood and doctors said they did not have the expertise to help her in Norwich.

'They didn't hold out much hope,' he said.

She was transferred for an operation at Addenbrooke's in Cambridge.

Mr McTaggart, who left the RAF to avoid being sent away while Kelsey was ill, said: 'Half way through the night they said things were not looking good. Her lungs were filling up with blood.'

Doctors discovered she had an arterial ventricular malformation – a 5cm mass of blood vessels in the brain which had to be cut out.

It had affected her body like a stroke – her left side was paralysed and she struggled with breathing, swallowing and regulating her temperature.

The teenager, a former Norfolk county netball player, stayed at Addenbrooke's for the next seven weeks. Much of that time she was unconscious, needing a machine to keep her breathing.

Even when she was transferred back to Norwich, her parents were preparing to make some tough decisions.

'When they said she could come home and still be ventilated and need 24-hour nursing, we said no – it wasn't what she would have wanted. She would have wanted some quality of life,' said her mother.

Eventually Kelsey began to respond but, described by her mother as a 'toddler in a woman's body', she had to learn everything from scratch, including how to get dressed.

'Toilet training was interesting,' said the teenager, who is now 17 and attends Wymondham High sixth form.

Kelsey cannot remember much of the time she spent in hospital and all of her detailed childhood memories have been wiped out.

Mrs McTaggart, who now works at Sewell Park College, Norwich, said: 'The best way we could find to explain was to say her brain was like a library but all the books were on the wrong shelf.'

By September 2009, having missed just four months of studies, Kelsey returned to high school and rejoined her fellow classmates in year 11.

She had to learn two years' worth of information in nine months, but her determination was rewarded this summer when she gained four As, one B, seven Cs and a D in her GCSEs.

And in Breckland Council's recent Pride in Breckland Youth Awards, Kelsey was awarded the outstanding achievement award in recognition of how much she had overcome.

But Kelsey, who has also started playing netball and singing again, admits she does not necessarily see what the fuss is about. 'I don't appreciate it as much as everyone else,' she said.

Having watched their daughter fight back from near-death, her parents said: 'To be told you can never do anything again, to have to re-learn everything you took for granted – some days were really awful. She's absolutely fab.'

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