Jim Douglas reports
DECATUR - Jackie Murphree is 22 years old. She's an Aggie senior, former Decatur cheerleader, student council president and vacation bible school leader.
She is also the victim of a drunk driver.
Now, Murphree is a test case for stem cell therapy.
Last April, she returned from experimental treatment in China for traumatic brain injury. Next month, she will return to China for more intensive treatment.
Doctors extract her bone marrow, culture stem cells, and inject them into her spinal cord. The next time, they may inject the cells directly into her brain.
Pat Murphree stretches his daughter's spasmed limbs several times each day, pours her food through a tube, and struggles to lift her up to improve her circulation.
More and more often now, he believes he is rewarded with a look.
"You can't really explain the feeling when you get that few seconds where you think she really understands who you are and what you're doing," he said. "It's awesome. It's like the first time your kid says 'daddy.'"
Jackie Murphree's friends surround her with encouragement to expect miracles.
To her family, a miracle would simply be a single word, or nod, or a blink of communication.
"We're trying to get to the 'yes' and 'no,' Pat Murphree explained. "We're not trying to get her to walk or anything else."
But family members do see miracles in the extraordinary efforts by friends and total strangers who continue to raise tens of thousands of dollars for the costly treatments. They do it with truck shows, concerts, church suppers and barrel races.
Anything to raise money - and hope.
"You've got to give her the best shot at whatever kind of life she might have," Pat Murphree said.