Decatur woman returns from China after stem cell surgery

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by By JIM DOUGLAS / WFAA-TV

Bio | Email | Follow: @wfaajdouglas

wfaa.com

Posted on May 14, 2009 at 11:32 PM

Updated Monday, Oct 19 at 5:01 PM

STEM CELL SURGERY

Jim Douglas reports

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DECATUR - A young woman is back home after a desperate journey to China for experimental stem cell treatment to heal her brain.

It wasn't a disease or a genetic defect that led to her condition. Instead, Jackie Murphree, 22, went into a coma and woke up unresponsive and in need of wheelchair after a drunk driver struck her car.

The Decatur High honor student turned Aggie was leaving for work one morning two years ago when the accident occurred. The driver got probation.

In the latest on her slow and painful journey to find the person she used to be, Jackie went to China for five weeks. Doctors injected her own stem cells into her spinal cord in an attempt to heal her brain. She returned to North Texas Wednesday.

Patrick Murphree, her father, has been in the forefront of the battle, leading the quest to find help for his daughter. In therapy each day, he said he hopes each small response is a sign that his daughter is stepping closer to who she was before the crash.

"When she's having a bad day, and she's obviously in pain, I get real mad that she's having to go through this," he said.

Her physical therapist, Merley Vela, said she has seen through the way Jackie holds her head up or leans on her arm that there are improvements.

"Before she could not hold her head up," Vela said. "Before she did not react at all. But now she gets angry. You can see her facial expression when she's mad."

Murphree quit his job to care for his daughter while Jackie's mom supports the family.

"This is my job," he said. "This is what I do. I don't do anything else. It's one of those things where we don't know what's going to happen tomorrow, but it doesn't change what I do today."

But her parents haven't been the only one supporting Jackie's journey. Hundreds of neighbors in Decatur raised more than $30,000 for experimental treatment in China that is not available in the Unites States.

"We don't know if she's on one of her peaks, or it's the result of what happened," Murphree said of watching his daughter over the last week react more to conversation.

Not expecting an overnight miracle, Jackie's family has been cherishing the small signs.

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