Hit by a bus - but it was no joke says mum Isla
People often joke ‘you could be hit by a bus tomorrow’. But that is exactly what happened to one young mother, except she was also 33 weeks’ pregnant at the time - and it was no joke.
As she pulled on her coat one cold March morning in 2011, simply to fetch some lunch, 33 weeks' pregnant Isla Monk, daughter of Brian and Elspeth Fawcett of Poringland near Norwich, had no idea that she wouldn't be returning home until three months later.
Heading out, having spent the morning with husband Tim on preparations for their third child's arrival, Isla was knocked down by a bus on a pedestrian crossing in the centre of Croydon, suffering life-threatening injuries. Traffic came to a standstill as Isla was pulled out and whisked by air ambulance to London's major trauma centre at St George's Hospital.
Tim, awaiting Isla's return, saw the police car pull up outside their home. The Police would only say "your wife has been in an accident, you need to come with us!", he recalls. While gathering things together, he knew he could do with some help, so straightaway rang Isla's mother, asking her to pray for her daughter and if she could come down from Norfolk.
An emergency C-section to still unconscious Isla soon saw tiny premature 'Baby Girl Monk' delivered and rushed down to the Special Care Baby Unit. For mum Isla, kept in intensive care for days, it became clear that apart from severe brain injury, a cracked skull and ribs, there was, miraculously, no other major damage or ongoing bleeding. But the outlook would take weeks to assess - Isla was immobile, confused and suffering from big memory loss.
Family, friends and members from Beulah Family Church, which the couple attended, all rallied round swiftly and practically. One couple from the church came to comfort Tim as he waited outside the trauma theatre; Isla's mother raced down from Poringland that afternoon, and father Brian flew back from Africa; a sister took the older children for a couple of days.
Meanwhile, home life needed to carry on without mum. As Isla remained in hospital, Beulah church organised a meals rota and friends collected the older children from nursery and school. With the still-nameless Baby Girl Monk discharged after a fortnight, family cared for her at nights once Tim returned to work.
Grandparents Brian and Elspeth stayed for much of the next six months, camping in the front room, helping with children and home life, criss-crossing south London to visit their slowly recovering daughter. "We just got on with it, - and God delivered," they recall.
After a month of post-traumatic amnesia, Isla got a rare space at a specialist rehabilitation unit, where she re-learnt basic things like balancing, walking and talking with expression, before progressing to the domestic tasks such as cooking, shopping, baking and washing.
Within three months of the life-threatening accident, she was discharged to her family "for ever and ever" according to her delighted five-year-old daughter.
Finally, four months after the accident, the Christian couple named their daughter Sophie, after getting special dispensation from the registration authorities to delay until Isla could be involved in the decision.
When Isla, who attended Springwood High School in King's Lynn and now lives in Cambridge, is asked: "Do you ever wonder why it should happen to you?" her reply is: "Why not me?" She still cannot remember what happened, nor anything from the next three months.
Today, new acquaintances would be unaware that the dynamic mother or colleague they meet had experienced such a dramatic incident and suffered such severe brain damage.
Talking about her experiences publicly for the first time, Isla said: "People say 'you might get knocked down by a bus'….. I actually was, - but God has done an amazing thing for me. It's such a privilege - I am still here!"
Pictured above are Isla and Sophie Monk.