A teenager who sustained a broken neck after a gymnastics accident has been the star of a formal held for her in hospital.
In September Jennifer Smyth from Eglinton, Co Londonderry, broke her neck on landing after a gymnastic manoeuvre and has been a patient at Musgrave Park Hospital since then.
Her mother Pamela said: “Jennifer herself is an inspiration and has been so focused and positive throughout everything. From the very first moment this happened staff at the Shooting Stars gymnastics school, hospital staff in Altnagelvin, the Royal and Musgrave Park have been outstanding.
“I think at times like these we need to give the NHS the praise they deserve. Thanks to hospital staff, Jennifer had the school formal come to her. It has given her and us a massive boost and we want to thank everyone involved from the bottom of our hearts.”
Jennifer, a pupil at Limavady Grammar School, had been due to attend her school formal in the Everglades Hotel in November, having bought her dress months before the accident.
It had been hoped she would be discharged from hospital temporarily to attend the event but consultants and specialists decided the journey would be too tiring.
“It was a real blow for Jennifer,” said her mother.
“As a family we had met with all the relevant medical people the Wednesday before the formal and it was suggested that it was possible that there would be very little further progress in Jennifer’s condition, so it was a double blow.”
Pamela explained how quick-thinking medics then found a way Jennifer could enjoy her formal without leaving hospital: “Jennifer attends the school in the Children’s Ward at Musgrave Park and teachers there instantly decided they wanted to do something so that she didn’t miss out on her formal experience.
“We suggested they check with Jennifer herself about organising something and she was just buzzing. She absolutely loved the idea. She’d made such an impact on them and I think they were just really taken with her personality.”
In cooperation with teachers at Limavady Grammar a minibus was arranged to transport 10 of Jennifer’s friends, along with the school’s vice principal, to the classroom of the school in Musgrave Park Hospital which, for one night only, became a formal venue.
“It was wonderful,” added Pamela. “There was dimmed lighting, music chosen by Jennifer, hospital screens were draped with sheets and fairy lights and Jennifer got to wear that dress we’d bought all those months ago.
“The NHS staff there do wonderful work and we are actually seeing Jennifer show small signs towards progress.”