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Walking miracle: Toni Watson suffered strokes during op and was given little chance - but just look at her now


Toni Watson with her mum and cousin Nicola Harkins

Toni Watson with her mum and cousin Nicola Harkins

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Toni Watson

Toni Watson

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Toni Watson pictured before her recent surgery

Toni Watson pictured before her recent surgery

Toni's idol Adele

Toni's idol Adele


Toni Watson with her mum and cousin Nicola Harkins

A Northern Ireland woman whose family were told to prepare for the worst after she suffered brain damage during surgery is making remarkable progress.

Toni Watson was born with genetic disorder Turner syndrome, and has had to undergo a series of heart operations since she was six weeks old due to the condition.

After undergoing 16 hours of major surgery to stretch a heart valve at the Royal Victoria Hospital on June 4, the 24-year-old was hit by multiple strokes.

Her loved ones were told that she may not recover.

Now, less than two months later, the big Adele fan has taken her first steps, is able to speak, and is due to move into Musgrave Park Hospital's regional acquired brain injury unit for rehabilitation.

In a post on Toni's No Ordinary Girl Facebook page on Monday, her proud relatives said "7 weeks ago today we were given the most devastating news that she wasn't going to live" and that Toni has "completely beaten the odds with everything she has achieved".

"She has come on in leaps and bounds - it's absolutely miraculous, and even the medical staff are dumbfounded," her proud cousin Claire McQuillan told the Belfast Telegraph.

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"With the multiple strokes and the brain damage, the doctors had warned us that she could be left severely disabled and wheelchair-bound, and our fear was that she would completely lose her personality and ability to communicate. On Monday, seven weeks to the day after we were told that she had suffered strokes during the surgery, she was moved to Musgrave, which we couldn't have imagined happening a few weeks ago.

"We don't know how long she will be in Musgrave, and she has a long way to go; it's a journey, but we still have her and we can see her personality coming through.

"She can recall things which happened years ago, which is unbelievable, and you can have a conversation with her, although it is tiring for her due to her brain injury.

"Toni has been amazingly strong and she has approached it with her own 'take things in your stride, this is what needs to be done' attitude. She is an inspiration to us all."

Poignant family footage of Toni in her hospital bed shows her saying that she had "never felt as happy" due to her major operation being over.

She is also pictured walking around the ward with support, to cheers from her family.

Toni can subsequently be seen laughing at a clip of herself taken in the early stages of her recovery, when she mouthed the words to Adele's Rolling In The Deep.

The clip went viral on social media, and Toni's family have been campaigning under the #AdelehelpToni slogan to get the music megastar to send a personal greeting to encourage Toni's recovery efforts.

"We have reached out to Adele's people and they said they would pass on the email, but we haven't heard anything back yet," Claire added.

"When we made our request Adele had just pulled out of the shows at Wembley, so maybe it wasn't a good time, but we are still hoping that she might record a message to reward Toni's progress. If not, we will still have all the nice messages left by people, which will give us nice memories."

In the meantime, brave Toni is hoping that her move to Musgrave Park Hospital will help her progress even further in her recovery.

"She had been bed-bound in the Royal for so long, and she definitely sees the move to Musgrave as another step to getting better, with the help of the physios and the occupational therapists there," Claire explained.

"We are so grateful to the staff at the Royal for everything they have done for Toni so far, and we have a big sense of relief that she can progress to the next stage of her journey.

"We are planning a fundraising night for the Royal Victoria Hospital cardiac intensive care unit at the Kosy Club in Dundonald on September 1 as a way of saying thank you.

"Words can't express how grateful we are."

To follow Toni's progress, visit the No Ordinary Girl Facebook page.

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