Mom sacrifices daughter's voice to save her life

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by JANET ST. JAMES / WFAA

KMOV.com

Posted on June 13, 2012 at 10:56 AM

Updated Wednesday, Jun 13 at 12:59 PM

DALLAS - With a borrowed camera at Children's Medical Center, Amber Thomas is capturing the joy of her daughter's laugh, while she can.

"It's the best sound in the world, it really is," Thomas said.

But the sweet sound of three-year-old Emily is about to silenced forever.

At 10 days old, baby Emily suffered a stroke as a result of an MRSA staph infection that spread to her blood. She was left legally blind, brain damaged and with cerebral palsy.

Emily can say a few words, like "hi," though she mostly makes just sounds.

"She may not be able to say the words, 'Hey Mom,'" Thomas said, "but, I know what her sounds mean."

Emily also has trouble controlling her movements, though cerebral palsy affects more than just the ability to control the body.

"It makes all of the muscles and tissues through the airway weak," Thomas said. "So if she gets the slightest cold, it can just weaken her badly."

About two weeks ago, a common cold almost suffocated Emily. From their home in Tyler, Emily was flown by plane to Children's Medical Center, where her mother has made a difficult decision.

A permanent tracheotomy - a hole in Emily's neck - will give her the ability to breathe. But, the procedure to be done Tuesday afternoon will rob her of her voice.

"I'm going to miss chatting with her," Thomas said wistfully. "We've been blessed that we got to hear her for three years."

Emily has two brothers at home in Tyler, who did not get to hear their sister's last coos and giggles. Amber Thomas had to borrow a camera to capture those moments for them.

"It's just so hard the past few days," Thomas said through tears. "Every time I heard these little things, I thought that I need to remember it."

After the stroke, Amber was told her daughter would never be able to communicate. She found a way.

Her mother hopes Emily will find a way again.

"If anyone can figure out how to make sounds, how to communicate - even if it's with her eyes - it's her," Amber Thomas said. "There's a lot more of her in there than people realize."

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

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