Typically, coma-related drama seems like something that’s ripped right from a daytime soap opera. You know how it goes: while a bedridden character lies in intensive care, their memories fade away, their evil twin wreaks havoc, and their loved ones quarrel.
When England’s Gemma Holmes crashed her moped into a parked car, however, the ensuing drama was anything but fiction. Riddled with injuries that rendered her comatose and hospitalized, Gemma’s future didn’t look promising.
Doctors moved in to perform life-saving surgery but ran into an unexpected roadblock that, unbelievably, was considered a miracle…
Not a whole lot happens when someone is suffering through a coma. While their bodies are in an emergency shutdown in order to heal, patients remain in intensive care, hooked up to machines that beep as life goes on around them. Such was the case for coma patient Gemma Holmes—at first, anyway…
Before she landed in the hospital, Gemma had a perfectly normal life. Then, on September 8, 2012, while driving to her nursing home job on her moped along the A350 state road through Chalford, England, everything changed.
Gemma slammed her moped headlong into a stationary car. The impact propelled her body into a street lamp and broke her back and neck. She should have died. But, somehow in the coming months, the injuries would be the least complicated part of her life…
When first responders found Gemma, she’d slipped into a coma and needed treatment—and fast. Medics called in the cavalry: helicopters airlifted her body to Frenchay Hospital in Bristol, where doctors started their tests. That’s when they found something curious.
Besides a shattered spine, doctors found that Gemma was four months pregnant! To provide her with the treatment she’d need, surgeons would have to terminate the pregnancy. But Gemma was in a coma—and she couldn’t consent to that. So what could be done?
Without permission, doctors couldn’t operate, so they called Julie Brown, Gemma’s mother and next of kin. They informed Julie of her daughter’s condition and gave her the choice: would she abort the baby and operate or let the fetus grow with a risk to Gemma?
Julie mulled over her choices, but none of them felt like hers to make. Even worse: the doctors didn’t believe Gemma would survive. “I didn’t tell anyone [about the pregnancy] for a month,” Julie told the Wiltshire Times, “because they didn’t think she would make it through.”
Luckily, Julie never had to make the decision. In October of 2012, Gemma awoke from her coma. Doctors could let the life-changing decision fall on her shoulders. There was just one problem…
When Gemma woke up from her coma, she didn’t even know she was pregnant. That was because she didn’t remember any recent moments, including who the father was! In fact, she didn’t remember the past three years of her life. Yet the question of whether to operate still needed an answer.
Doctors laid it out for her: without the surgery, she’d be bedridden. Pregnancy would introduce complications and difficulty to her recovery process—she wouldn’t be able to take painkillers, for instance. Meanwhile, questions about her past surfaced.
Someone reminded Gemma that she’d once said she “didn’t want kids” before age 30—even though Gemma herself couldn’t remember saying that. Given all of this, would she keep this child?
In what was a deeply personal decision, Gemma told doctors she’d keep the baby. “I just thought that if this little baby … had managed to survive the awful crash,” she said, “then he was meant to be.” Still, the decision didn’t solve all her problems.
As doctors soon informed her, a live birth of this baby would kill Gemma. Contractions would destroy her spine further and labor would put pressure on her brain, which was certainly not something a recent coma patient should endure. The baby would have to be delivered via C-section.
And so on May 2, 2013, seven months after her accident, Gemma successfully gave birth. “I couldn’t stop crying when they first showed him to me,” she said, “because he’s my little miracle baby. I was just so happy to see him after everything we’ve been through.”
Indeed, this was a miracle baby! His mother never should have lived, and by all advice, neither should he. That’s why Gemma named her six-pound son Ruben Miracle. Still, Gemma’s battle was only just beginning…
Without the surgery on her spine, Gemma had been confined to a wheelchair and unable to walk. Even after she’d given birth to Ruben, doctors could still not operate on her. Nevertheless, during the breastfeeding period, it was crucial she bond with her baby. Therefore, surgery could wait.
However, as Gemma went months without the proper treatment, her spine healed incorrectly. For her to get the required surgery, doctors would have to re-break her spine and put metal plates in. Even after that, it would take two years before she could walk again.
Thankfully, Julie offered her assistance in raising Ruben. “My mum has been amazing and helps me out a lot,” Gemma said, “but I can feed him and I also changed his nappy for the first time the other day.” Still there was another, more surprising helper in Ruben’s life…
While Gemma expressed no interested in being romantically involved with Ruben’s father—who was later determined to be a man named Luke Dicks—he made it clear that he wanted to be a part of his baby’s life, and Gemma couldn’t be happier. “It is just great for my son,” she said.
While it would take some time for Gemma to walk again, she remained hopeful that she’d be up, about, and playing with Ruben before too long. And if anyone had the will and strength to make that happen, it was Gemma!
After giving birth to Ruben, Gemma worked to recall the missing three years of her life. Talk about added drama to the already life-altering changes introduced by the moped wreck!
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