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Injured teen says thanks

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services
Published Monday, April 21, 2008

FORT SMITH - A Fort Smith teenager recovering from a life-threatening head injury has a message for her home community.

Alice Mawdsley, 17, appreciates the overwhelming support she has received as she recovers in an Edmonton hospital.

"She says 'thank you' to everybody in Fort Smith for everything they've done for her," said her sister Betsy, who asked Alice if she had a message to send.

Alice has received hundreds of messages of support on a website.

She has also been visited by many people from Fort Smith, especially during spring break.

"Whenever people pass through Edmonton, they drop in and say hi," Betsy said.

Alice was injured in a snowmobile accident in Fort Smith on Jan. 5.

She was on an inner tube being dragged to the top of a sliding hill by a snowmobile. The tube struck a parked vehicle.Since emerging from a month-long coma, she has been making a remarkable recovery.

"She's definitely getting there," said Betsy. "She's working hard and making big steps, but she's definitely a long way from herself."

Betsy said Alice has been walking for a few weeks with the assistance of a walker.

"She's bright and talkative," her sister added, saying Alice chats on a cell phone and sends text messages to her friends in Fort Smith.

Alice's ability to speak returned very suddenly, Betsy said.

"It was like a switch came on and she was talking completely."

That happened in early March when a couple of friends from Fort Smith visited Alice. They said hi to her and she responded with "Hello."

Before that, she was communicating with her family through written notes, beginning in mid-February when her mother handed Alice a pen and a piece of paper, and with great effort she wrote "Thank you."

Alice is also well enough to spend weekends at an apartment her parents have rented in Edmonton to be near their daughter while she is in hospital.

"I'm so proud of her every single day," Betsy said.

Alice is currently in Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital, where she moved about a month and a half ago from Stollery Children's Hospital.

"Glenrose is really good for her," Betsy said. "She's a lot more mobile."

Her rehabilitation includes exercising in a pool, working on her balance and strength, seeing a speech pathologist and even attending school. She has a brace on her left knee and ankle for support.

"It's about her brain remembering how to do things," Betsy said. "She's definitely awake."

However, Alice is still experiencing many effects from the trauma.

"Her memory really needs to come around," Betsy said. "All of the information is in there. The brain needs to form new pathways."

Alice also needs to regain her strength after being in a coma, and being confined to bed and then a wheelchair.

In mid-February, Alice underwent surgery to replace a section of her skull that had been removed to relieve pressure on her brain, which was swollen as a result of her injury.

Betsy said Alice will be going home when the doctors say she is ready, but no date has been set.

"We're hoping soon," Betsy said. "She really wants to come home."

She said her sister still has a lot of big steps before she can go home and "just be Alice," and the ultimate extent of her recovery is still unknown.

The website address where Alice's condition is updated and where messages can be left is www.carepages.com. Her page can be accessed by typing "lettersforalice."

A 17-year-old has been charged with operating a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol causing bodily harm in relation to the accident.