Published: 10:00, 08 May 2014
A devoted husband played his wedding song to wake his wife from a coma.
Mother-of-four Maria Neal suffered a severe stroke seven weeks ago that doctors said she would never survive.
The 48-year-old was put on a life-support machine and medics told her distraught family there was nothing they could do.
Husband Steve gathered his children at her bedside to "say goodbye", but then she was transferred to a specialist hospital where she underwent brain surgery.
It was still touch and go and - as Mrs Neal remained unconscious - Mr Neal played Unchained Melody, which the pair had danced to on their wedding day 21 years before.
To the Chalk family's joy, she responded, and now they are seeking another miracle – to bring her home from hospital for good.
The Righteous Brothers' classic song, which includes the line "I'll be coming home", has inspired them to launch an appeal for £30,000 to adapt their house in Chalk which will, most importantly, enable the mother of four herself to come home from hospital for good.
The money, of which just over £1,200 has been raised so far, will convert the downstairs of the property into one-floor living accommodation with walk-in wet room and wheelchair access to the garden.
"The long term goal is that mum will return back where she belongs so that our house once again becomes a home," said 20-year-old daughter Kyrstie.
"However, to achieve this we need to make a lot of changes and adaptations for her disabilities so that she may live everyday life to the full and as safe as possible. Any donation will be received with true heartfelt thanks and appreciation."
Kyrstie described her mother as "incredibly determined".
"Every day my dad would say to my mum 'if you win your battle, then we will win the war'. My mum has done her part in winning the battle so please help us win the war and get her back home where she belongs."
Mrs Neal suffered a massive bleed on the brain on March 23 – her husband's 46th birthday and the day before her youngest son, Kameron, had his 14th birthday.
The prognosis by medics at Darent Valley Hospital was bleak and Mrs Neal was at death's door. Her husband, together with Kyrstie, Kameron, and their other sons, Kurtis, 18, and Kieran, 16, all gathered at her bedside.
Mr Neal said: "She was on life support and the doctors said they could do nothing more for her. They had sent her brain scans to King's College Hospital in London but if they wouldn't take her that would be it, game over.
"I took the kids in to say goodbye. That was the worst thing I have ever done in my life."
However, hope came in that dark moment when King's agreed to take Mrs Neal. She was transferred and by the time her family arrived, was already undergoing brain surgery.
Mr Neal and his children then faced an agonising wait to see if their beloved wife and mother would pull through.
"Her chances were 50/50 and the doctors said that even if she did survive she would be severely disabled," said Mr Neal. "Doctors literally told us to 'plan for the worst and hope for the best'.
"As a family, we just didn't know what to think. The next day was really difficult as it was Kameron's birthday and we had only a few hours earlier got back from King's, having been told that Maria's life was in the balance. All Kameron asked for his birthday was to have his mum back."
Mrs Neal spent the next 10 days on life support in intensive care, with her family at her bedside.
After four days, doctors decided to take her out of her induced coma but it was several more days before there was any response.
Kyrstie said: "We spent hours talking to her and trying to find anything that we thought would stimulate a response.
"Dad downloaded their wedding songs onto his phone and played them to mum with tears rolling from his face onto hers.
"This broke my heart but the day after she started to move her right arm and a couple of days after this she started nodding."
As well as Unchained Melody, Mr Neal played their other wedding song, Simply Red's If You Don't Know Me By Now. She began to respond by briefly open her eyes.
"Dad downloaded their wedding songs onto his phone and played them to mum with tears rolling from his face onto hers..." - Maria's daughter Kyrstie Neal
"We were so pleased that she had done this but we were then told that might be as good as it gets," said Mr Neal. “But it was a big boost for us."
Meetings with doctors followed in which Mrs Neal's immediate treatment was discussed. But it was not until Mr Neal mentioned his wife's previous medical history and a rare syndrome she already suffered from that they began a different treatment.
"Their faces literally lit up and all hell broke loose," said Mr Neal. "The doctors decided they would take my word for it because they couldn't carry out any tests quickly enough.
"They started her on medication for that and she has come on leaps and bounds."
Mrs Neal spent two weeks in King's before being transferred back to Darent Valley for another two weeks. She is now an in-patient on a specialist stroke rehabilitation unit at Gravesham Community Hospital in Bath Street but is allowed to return home for the odd hour.
"She gets to see the kids, stroke the dog and see her personal things. It really helps her," said Mr Neal. "Her progress is very, very good. A few weeks ago she couldn't tell the time or remember what I had said to her five minutes earlier," said Mr Neal.
"Now she can do that and physically she is getting there, although her left side is very weak. No one has actually said what the prognosis is long term but three medical professionals have each said she is a miracle."
To help the appeal, visit www.gofundme.com/8kdlb8.
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