Marathon a labor of love for friends and family of brain-damaged girl

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by JIM DOUGLAS

Bio | Email | Follow: @wfaajdouglas

WFAA

Posted on December 2, 2011 at 11:44 PM

DECATUR - The Christmas greeting outside the Murphree home near Decatur says a lot about what's happening inside.

"Expect miracles."

They look for small miracles every day for Jackie Murphree. She turns 25 next month.

A drunk driver left her in a near vegetative state. Love has brought her a long way.

"This morning, for the first time, she took six bites of cinnamon roll," said her dad, Patrick Murphree. "Actually chewed and swallowed six bites."

For the most part, she is sustained by a feeding tube.

A few months ago, Jackie reached up and scratched her brow. The first sign of deliberate, purposeful movement in four years.

"You saw her expression when she saw you," Patrick said. "There's something there."

Patrick Murphree can't be sure what's behind his daughter's bright eyes.

But he knows she responds to people, that she loved volunteer work and seems to enjoy buggy rides.

That's where the White Rock Marathon comes in.

Patrick modified Jackie's homemade buggy with plastic shielding to protect her from the nastiest weather. At least 20 volunteers will push her - twice as many as last year. They'll push for five-mile legs.

Jackie's uncle, Jeff, said he hasn't run five miles since high school, but he'll push because he believes people need to know her story. He believes it just might save some lives.

"If it's going to raise a little more awareness, and keep her in the picture, make people think, I'll do the whole 26," Jeff said. 

Jackie's longtime physical therapist, Rick Ward, will push, too.

"She represents something," he said. "The power of hope."

Jackie's dad is also on the team.

He couldn't train because he was busy building a home around his daughter's needs with his own hands. All the doors are wide. All the spaces open.

Since the wreck, Patrick has been caring for his daughter, while Jackie's mom brings in a paycheck.

He works with her drawn limbs every day. It's painful for Jackie, and therefore also painful for him.

"Do you think she knows how much you love her?" we asked.

Patrick pondered the question.

"I think so," the father said. "I hope she does."

It's one of those miracles expected in the Murphree home.

E-mail jdouglas@wfaa.com

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