Teen hit by car and taken for dead speaks of her miraculous recovery
'The paramedic just shook his head and said 'no way', not a chance Faye would survive 20 minutes'
Faye Allen shouldn't be here - 18 months ago she was minutes from death at the side of a country road following a horror road accident.
As her distraught father watched on, the teenager fought for her life and despite all the odds stacked against her she lives to tell the tale and campaign to prevent the same thing happening to someone else.
An ordinary day in October 2020 turned the Allens' world on its head. As Faye crossed the Cotton Road outside Bangor having just got off the bus, she was struck by a van travelling at around 60mph - within the legal speed limit.
She came to rest in a bloodied crumpled heap 70ft down the road.
She had returned to her friend's house after watching a football match in nearby Millisle to collect her things as dad Tommy sat in the car to bring her home.
She remembers calling her dad to say she had missed an earlier bus but would be on the next one - that's the last thing she recalls.
In split second all their lives changed for ever, and that's when a miraculous combination of events came together to save Faye's life.
With traffic backed up along the country road, a paediatric surgeon making his way home was in the queue, as were an off-duty paramedic and an-off duty police officer.
All of them came to Faye's aid, but it seemed a lost cause.
Her distraught mum rushed to the scene only to faint when she saw her daughter's condition.
"I can't properly describe it," said Michelle Allen.
"That was my daughter on the ground, it was horrendous, poor Tommy was beside himself pleading with Faye to come round, screaming at her to breathe, but she wasn't."
The Ambulance Service told them it would be 20 minutes before they could get to the scene, but it was time Faye didn't have.
"The paramedic said she wouldn't survive 20 minutes, he just shook his head and said no way, not a chance," said Michelle.
Within minutes the Air Ambulance was dispatched. As it landed in a nearby field, motorists sitting in the queue must have realised they were witnessing a real-time life or death drama.
Without the Air Ambulance, Faye would not be sitting in the living room of her Bangor home, she would not be back at Regent House school and she would not be concentrating on her exams and realising her dream of a career in medicine.
"They (Air Ambulance) intubated her and put her on life support at the side of the road, it was incredible," said Michelle this week.
She was too unstable to be transported by air but they had served their purpose and given her a fighting chance - but even then the prognosis was bleak.
Doctors at the Royal Hospital in Belfast warned them to prepare for the worst. Faye lay in a coma for a week, she had suffered bleeds to the brain and still has frontal lobe swelling, multiple fractures to her skull including her eye sockets.
Injuries to her ears, eyes and the loss of 10 teeth, a broken pelvis, broken fingers, broken wrists and she suffered damage to her lungs - all of which have consequences today and will continue in the future.
"The staff at the Royal were amazing, I can't tell you how good they were. Don't forget this was in the middle of Covid so only one person was allowed in to see her.
"It was very difficult."
After a week, medics decided to reduce sedation medication to see if Faye would react - and she did by pulling a tube out of her arm and she began to breathe on her own.
It was the start of a torturous return to health, a journey she still travels today. She had to learn how to walk again, she didn't know how to hold a pen.
"My writing before this was messy, it's still messy!" she said this week.
She has trouble with depth perception, gets dizzy and struggles to cope with direct light. "I can't look at the sky, it makes me dizzy to the point I think I'm going to fall. My memory has been affected and I have trouble with my right hand, like I've had a stroke."
But this smiling, engaging teenager continues to defy the odds. She returned to school last May - way ahead of schedule - and continues to excel at her chosen subjects, despite social media trolls.
Unbelievably she was on the wrong end of atrocious social media messages, with one person asking if she comes to school in a van, another told her she was nothing special and that people don't give a f**k.
But she has given the trolls the finger.
With the support of the Child Brain Injury Trust (CBIT) and the Scrabo Children's Centre who have helped with physio and home tutoring, she has battled back. Her school stepped up to the plate accommodating her return to class by ensuring her needs were met. They along with St Columbanus in Bangor where Michelle works as a classroom assistant and Towerview Primary School close to their home have raised money for Air Ambulance and CBIT.
Prayers were said for her at Clonard Monastery in Belfast, the family's local church was on hand with support as were local charities who called to the door with offers of help.
The family arranged a pub quiz raising almost £9,000 to be divided between the charities.
With the help of independent unionist MLA Alex Easton, the family is campaigning to have the speed limit brought down.
And Faye has written to Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon urging her to reduce the 60mph speed limit on the Cotton Road - a request she has so far resisted.
"Sixty miles per hour is too fast for cars coming through there, I don't want what happened to me to happen to someone else."
The contrast between the battered, bloodied and broken Faye Allen and the bright beaming teenager today couldn't be greater, but she knows there is still work to be done.
"If there's one consolation, before this happened I hated onions and mushrooms, now I love them! Weird."
In a statement the Department of Infrastructure said after an assessment there are no plans to alter the speed limit. "Requests for changes to the speed limit on a road are assessed and take in to consideration factors such as the characteristic of the road; speed of existing traffic; road traffic collision data; and extent of frontage development. A speed limit assessment for Cotton Road was carried out using this criteria.
"These have indicated that the existing national speed limit remains appropriate so there are currently no plans to change at this time."
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