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Teenager who came back from the brink of death after horror Co Antrim crash

By Erinn Kerr

Published 23/07/2015

Clodagh Arbuckle and her dad Liam at their Ballycastle home where Clodagh is recovering from an accident that took place over the easter holidays.
Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph
Clodagh Arbuckle and her dad Liam at their Ballycastle home where Clodagh is recovering from an accident that took place over the easter holidays. Picture - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph
Clodagh Arbuckle at home with her father Liam yesterday

A teenager who was expected to die after a horror crash which killed two young men has left hospital and says the prayers of loved ones kept her alive.

Clodagh Arbuckle made a miracle recovery after spending two weeks in a coma and 13 weeks in hospital following the road smash which caused her to lose the ability to walk, talk or eat.

The 18-year-old suffered a raft of deadly injuries including lacerations to her kidneys and liver, a broken arm and ribs, muscle damage to her shoulder, right leg and ankle, as well as bleeding and bruising on the brain, and her heartbroken parents were told to expect the worst. But now she is back home and is looking forward to rebuilding her life and getting back to school.

Speaking from her home in Ballycastle, Clodagh told the Belfast Telegraph: "I'm just so glad to be alive and talking to you now. My memory of everything is really hazy. I know I was really ill and I could have died.

"But everyone kept thinking about me and praying for me and I think that kept me alive.

"I want to say thank you to everyone who played a part in saving me - the staff at all my hospitals, the firefighters, the ambulance crews, police, friends, and family. I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for you." The Cross and Passion College student didn't recognise her loved ones when she woke from a coma on April 20 and her father Liam (43) said he waited 52 days for her to call him "daddy".

Clodagh, who is looking forward to a day when she can return to school and work, said: "I had to learn to walk again, I couldn't support myself because my left leg was really badly damaged and I fell out of the wheelchair the first time I tried to stand up - it was horrible.

"I was fed through a tube for eight-and-a-half weeks before I was able to eat anything for myself and I couldn't speak.

"All I could do was make a noise, if someone came near me with a needle I would shout and protest but I couldn't speak properly.

"On my first day with the speech and language therapist I couldn't even say dog or cat - I didn't know what they were." Clodagh's mum Ileen (40) said doctors told her that her daughter may never have the use of her left arm or leg following the crash on Easter Monday which claimed the lives of Armoy's Robin Wilson (26), and Ballycastle's Johnny Black (19).

Ileen said: "I can't believe how far she has come; she can walk, talk and eat just like she did before.

"She is so strong and her progress has been wonderful.

"Having her back home with us is brilliant. We spent every single day by her side in hospital but having her at home is different, we've missed her."

Clodagh, who is big sister to Liam (12), made a trip home for the weekend earlier this month but was "beside herself" when she had to go back to hospital.

Despite getting on well with all the staff, Clodagh had decided that all she wanted was to be at home and her specialist doctor didn't want her stress to undo any of the progress that she had made.

So two weeks ago, dad Liam, who is a taxi driver in Belfast, received a phone call telling him that Clodagh could be picked up later that day and taken home.

Ileen said: "I can't thank the staff at the Causeway, the Royal and Musgrave enough for everything that they have done for Clodagh.

"They saved her life and then they got her back on her feet and went out of their way to help her feel as comfortable as possible.

"As she regained her strength the staff at Musgrave's acquired head injuries unit did everything they could to stop her from getting bored while she was cooped up in hospital."

Clodagh's family said they would be "forever grateful" to the community who rallied around while she was in hospital and for everyone who prayed for her.

Liam said: "We can't underestimate the power of prayer here.

"There were vigils and Masses held all over the world for my daughter and I believe that they helped her to pull through. We can't thank those people enough, most of whom didn't know Clodagh personally, but that didn't stop them praying for her to get better, and now here she is."

Liam added: "Although Clodagh is home her injuries are permanent and she will need to continue treatment for damage to her brain, but she's here, and alive and well."

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