‘Girl who has touched so many hearts’

Fund raiser Crystal Chui visits Katie McLean and dad Andy at home in Eyemouth to donate to the Katie-Lou Foundation.
Fund raiser Crystal Chui visits Katie McLean and dad Andy at home in Eyemouth to donate to the Katie-Lou Foundation.

After so much stress and heartache since June 4, 2012, Andy and Nikki MacLean have daughter Katie-Lou back at home where she belongs.

The teenager, now 15, was in Edinburgh’s Sick Kids Hospital for eight months after sustaining severe brain damage in an accident at Eyemouth harbour last year and life will never be the same again.

She was smashed against the harbour walls after being swept into the sea by a wave on that fateful day in June last year, a group of courageous bystanders coming to her rescue to save her life.

But that was just the beginning of a long and agonising journey for Andy and Nikki. Katie was rushed to hospital and remained in a critical condition for a number of weeks.

Even though her condition improved, life will never be the same again for her. Or for mum and dad.

The MacLean’s house has been transformed to adapt to Katie-Lou’s needs with its garage turned into a wet room and her bedroom moved downstairs.

But one thing that certainly hasn’t changed is the love that Andy and Nikki have for their daughter, who has now been back in their full-time care for five weeks.

On a visit to the family home, it soon became clear just how relieved and grateful the couple are to have their fun-loving daughter back by their side.

“She is a lot happier and much more relaxed,” Andy explained. “She had dystonia while she was in hospital which affected her arms and legs, but that’s improved a lot now she’s back here.”

“It’s great to hear her laughing and giggling all the time. Maybe not so much at 2.30 in the morning though!

“We’ve been back up to hospital a few times since she’s been back home and you can tell she senses something’s not quite right. Her face drops when we go in, but as soon as we’re back in the car and heading back down the road she’s smiling again.”

Katie-Lou now has a full-time carer who comes to see her every morning and evening. Although Andy and Nikki know they have to be realistic about her recovery, they find hope in the little improvements she’s making all the time.

“Every day brings something new,” Andy explained. “We don’t tend to notice the differences as we are with her all the time, but the people who came to see her in hospital last year and have seen her since she’s been back here are amazed by the change.”

Before the accident last year Katie-Lou was settling into life at Eyemouth High School. There are plans for her to return to school on a regular basis when a tilt table, which will be used for her physio, is installed.

Being back at school will mean Katie-Lou is closer to her best friends, who have been a constant support to her and her family over the past year. The support that the MacLeans, who moved to Berwickshire from Plymouth last year, have had from people far and wide has left them completely overwhelmed.

Since it was set up last summer The Katie-Lou Foundation has now raised in the region of £40,000 thanks to the generosity of people who felt compelled to do something for the cause.

“She’s a girl who’s touched so many hearts,” said mum Nikki. “We can’t get over how people who don’t even know us have gone out of their way to raise money.

“When the accident first happened a lot of people said ‘you’ll want to move back home now won’t you?’. But this is our home now and we’ve had so much support from the community.”

One person who has done her bit for Katie-Lou is Berwick hairdresser Crystal Chui.

She cuts Andy’s hair and after hearing of how much life had changed for him and his family she went round the pubs of Berwick dressed as Mrs Claus and raised over £500.

But she didn’t stop there. Crystal also took part in the famous Boxing Day dip at Spittal along with friend Charlene Leiper, bringing her fundraising total to £1,300.

“I actually cried when I counted how much I raised from the pubs alone,” Crystal joked. “But after reading about what happened to Katie-Lou in the paper and hearing about it from Andy I knew I wanted to do something for her.

“I’m having a big party for my birthday next month, but I’m asking anyone who wants to put money in a card to put some money in a bucket and I’ll donate whatever’s put in to the Katie-Lou Foundation.”

Looking ahead to the future, Andy and Nikki are in the process of re-designing their garden and hoping for fine weather so Katie-Lou can enjoy the summer that she was so cruelly robbed of last year.

“We want her to be able to have her friends round and have a barbecue or something,” Nikki said. “They have been so good with her; they come round to watch TV with and have pamper sessions.

“Katie-Lou was due to go with them to see One Direction in a few weeks’ time. She’s a huge fan, but I can’t let her go now because it’ll be just too much for her with all the screaming. But she has got a signed photo from Harry Styles, which is on her bedside cabinet.

“There are some really hard days. I got quite upset on Mother’s Day as I just wanted her to hug me. But we’re both just so grateful that she’s still here and we’ve got our daughter back home. That’s all we’ve wanted for months.”