The Northern Irish student left fighting for her life after being beaten with a baseball bat in America has woken from her coma.
Natasha McShane from Silverbridge in south Armagh remains in a serious condition in a Chicago hospital and is still unable to move any of her limbs. But her family have said they are hopeful.
The 23-year-old opened her eyes briefly for the first time just over a week ago and since then doctors have been weaning her off the coma-inducing medicine as they are satisfied the pressure on her brain has decreased.
Natasha, a Queen’s University graduate who had been studying for a master’s degree at the University of Illinois, had been in the coma since she and a friend were attacked while walking home after a night out on April 23.
In a statement released over the weekend her heartbroken parents Liam and Sheila, who have been maintaining a vigil at her hospital bedside, said they had been given hope.
“She is awake, but still only demonstrating limited brain activity. Although her movements are ‘uncontrolled' at the moment, the family is hopeful for additional encouraging signs,” they said.
Despite being out of the coma Natasha is still unable to focus on anything.
Speaking from Crossmaglen, her grandmother Bernadette McShane said: “They have taken her out of the induced coma. Health wise she is breathing on her own but as yet there is not a great deal of response. There are slight wee things but not very much.
“She keeps her eyes open for a long time and they presume she can hear things but there’s nothing significant yet.
“But it is early days, it has only been two weeks and I think she has made remarkable progress and so do the doctors. It’s better to do it slowly and do it right.
“As long as she has no setbacks now, hopefully there will be more better news in the coming days.”
Natasha had been studying urban planning and public affairs in Chicago and had recently learned she was to be granted an internship which would extend her stay in the US.
She and Stacy Jurich (24) had been making their way home after celebrating the good news and were making their way through the Bucktown area of Chicago when they were struck on the head by a robber wielding an aluminium baseball bat.
Customers at the Chicago bar where Natasha worked part-time have staged fundraisers to support her family who have travelled over.
Anyone wishing to donate can log onto mcshanefund.com.