Parents refused to let daughter die

17:00, Jul 02 2011
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Like a koru unfolding: Kimberly McNeill, below and above left with father James McNeill, mother Jackie Kiddle, sister Elana and brother Daniel.

Miracle survivor Kimberly McNeill owes her life to the love and determination of a mum and dad who simply refused to let their darling daughter die.

The Hawke's Bay teen's body was so broken in a horror car crash six months ago, doctors turned off her life support.

Kimberly, pictured below, had severe head injuries, her pelvis was broken, vetebrae fractured and 12 ribs shattered when she was taken to Auckland City Hospital.

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Fifteen days after the December 27 accident, where her car hit a power pole, she was given no chance of recovery and life support was switched off.

But dad James McNeill and mum Jackie Kiddle, both trained acupuncturists, refused to accept the prognosis and enlisted the help of a senior Chinese medical practitioner specialising in neurology.

"We decided very early on to give 110% to even the smallest chance of recovery," James told Sunday News.

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They put together a treatment plan using alternative therapies – Chinese herbs, acupuncture and homeopathy.

The aim was to build up Kimberly's strength to take her through the "crisis" period after her life support was switched off, on January 14.

With doctors' permission, Chinese herbs were fed through a nasal-gastric tube and a senior acupuncturist worked on her. James and Jackie kept vigil for 72 hours straight, turning Kimberly constantly and using homeopathic remedies to keep the fluid trapped in her lungs from drowning her.

"She made a miraculous recovery," James said. "The doctors were very pleased too and said we could take her home to Hawke's Bay. When the Hawke's Bay [Hospital] team arrived, they immediately hooked her back up on life support and it was like a dream, she just thrived from that time on."

Within days, Kimberly woke from her coma. It was "like a koru unfurling," James said.

After a month in rehabilitation, the 18-year-old returned to her Havelock North home, and with constant support from family and friends, continued her amazing recovery.

Kimberly finished occupational therapy a fortnight ago, two months ahead of schedule. She has been out with friends, at the gym and planning university courses.

She will begin studying religion and political science next semester, and will enrol full time next year in a double arts degree at Auckland University.

Kimberly says she holds no hard feelings against mainstream medicine, despite her life support having been turned off.

But she says: "I think what doctors need to know is not to solely read the book – they need to learn to read the patient because everyone is different."

James says his biggest challenge now is learning to let his daughter go. "In lots of ways we've got a new, improved version of our Kimberly.

"Now our issue is going to be learning how to draw back, because full independence is the goal."

Sunday News