Brave Phoebe a shining example of triumph over adversity
For any teenage girl her 18th birthday - her coming of age - is a special occasion, but the celebrations enjoyed by Phoebe Lyle in Belfast last night were much, much more than a normal joyous occasion. They were the marking of a miracle milestone in the life of an extraordinary young lady.
Quite simply, it was a night that those closest to her thought she would never see after a horrendous accident while on holiday in Spain as a child left her paralysed from the neck down and clinging to life by the most slender of threads.
But Phoebe, aided by her redoubtable and loving family, her carers and the astonishingly skilled medical teams who have treated her over the past 15 years, has not just survived but has become a vibrant, intelligent and outward-looking teenager whose achievements would put many of her peers - indeed many of us - to shame.
She has not been defined by her disability, but rather by her quest to succeed in life, academically, socially and in the first steps towards a career.
She went to mainstream schools, passed her GCSEs and is studying for her A-levels. She has a wide circle of friends and has even made and directed her own documentary on disabled young people, which she hopes will be shown on BBC television later this year.
Phoebe is a shining beacon who lights up the lives of all who meet her. This is not patronising, but rather an inadequate description of the joy of life that radiates from her. Of course, she owes so much to so many, but without her own determination both to survive and to have a fulfilling life like any other young girl, their Herculean efforts would have been in vain.
As her mum, one of her full-time carers, says, they have been inspired by others who have undergone but conquered similar traumas. Now Phoebe is an inspiration, an example of the indomitable strength of the human spirit. Happy birthday, Phoebe, and success in all you do in your remarkable life.