logo
Featured on 40:     Shopping Hours     Thanksgiving Football     Storm Slideshow     40 Force: S. Hadley     Weather Discussion    

Teen's dramatic recovery

Houston-area teenager <a href='http://www.cnn.com/2013/02/04/health/synthetic-marijuana-irpt/index.html'>Emily Bauer</a> was a normal 16-year-old "full of light and laughter" until her family says she had serious side effects from smoking synthetic marijuana. This family photo of Emily was taken in December 2011.Houston-area teenager Emily Bauer was a normal 16-year-old “full of light and laughter” until her family says she had serious side effects from smoking synthetic marijuana. This family photo of Emily was taken in December 2011.
One month after the incident, Emily was blind. Each day since had been a fight -- a fight to move a finger, a fight to whisper something to her family, a fight for life, according to her family.

One month after the incident, Emily was blind. Each day since had been a fight — a fight to move a finger, a fight to whisper something to her family, a fight for life, according to her family.

Emily starts her recovery on January 16 at TIRR Memorial Hermann rehab hospital. Her family remained hopeful as she tackled physical, occupational and speech therapy.

Emily starts her recovery on January 16 at TIRR Memorial Hermann rehab hospital. Her family remained hopeful as she tackled physical, occupational and speech therapy.

Emily stands on the tilt table at the rehab hospital on February 22. "Emily has achieved some great things this week," wrote her mother in a daily <a href='https://www.facebook.com/safe4emily' target='_blank'>Facebook update</a>. The teenager was finally able to use her right hand and she faced the tilt table without "any pain, dizziness, or tears."

Emily stands on the tilt table at the rehab hospital on February 22. “Emily has achieved some great things this week,” wrote her mother in a daily Facebook update. The teenager was finally able to use her right hand and she faced the tilt table without “any pain, dizziness, or tears.”

Emily struggles to stand with some help on April 26. "Thank you for all your positive comments. It's a new day and I'm much ... happier today than I was yesterday," she told her mother to share on Facebook.

Emily struggles to stand with some help on April 26. “Thank you for all your positive comments. It’s a new day and I’m much … happier today than I was yesterday,” she told her mother to share on Facebook.

Emily ends the month of May by pumping iron in her wheelchair.

Emily ends the month of May by pumping iron in her wheelchair.

This contraption is helping Emily relearn how to walk. Here, her stepfather and physical therapists help strap her in on August 6.

This contraption is helping Emily relearn how to walk. Here, her stepfather and physical therapists help strap her in on August 6.

Emily strikes one of her signature faces as she poses with her mom, Tonya Bauer, at a golf tournament fundraiser for <a href='https://www.facebook.com/safe4emily' target='_blank'>SAFE</a> in August.Emily strikes one of her signature faces as she poses with her mom, Tonya Bauer, at a golf tournament fundraiser for SAFE in August.
Emily and her parents take photos as they eagerly await a bus to take her to her first day of school on August 26. "Our hearts are full of joy that we were able to reach this milestone," wrote her mother. The 17-year-old returned to Cy-Fair High School, where she is a sophomore.

Emily and her parents take photos as they eagerly await a bus to take her to her first day of school on August 26. “Our hearts are full of joy that we were able to reach this milestone,” wrote her mother. The 17-year-old returned to Cy-Fair High School, where she is a sophomore.

Emily throws bean bags while standing at a therapy session on September 3, a week after she returned to school.

Emily throws bean bags while standing at a therapy session on September 3, a week after she returned to school.

  • Emily Bauer nearly died after her family says she smoked synthetic marijuana
  • The 17-year-old is in a wheelchair and partially blind, but she returned to school recently
  • 75 people in Colorado may have become sickened after smoking synthetic marijuana
  • Synthetic marijuana is an herbal mixture sprayed with chemicals

(CNN) — Nine months after synthetic marijuana destroyed a large portion of her brain, Emily Bauer did something her parents feared they’d never see: She went back to high school.

Excited, nervous and terrified, the sophomore rolled through the hallways of Cy-Fair High School in Cypress, Texas, last week. Despite the familiar surroundings, Emily is living in a new world.

She can’t read or write. She is relearning basic addition and subtraction. A rotating cast of aides help Emily get through her school day. They wheel her from class to class, assist her in the restroom, help her eat, read class material to her and take notes for her, as she is partially blind. She attends school for half the day and goes to therapy in the afternoon.

Teen narrowly escapes death after smoking synthetic marijuana

And the 17-year-old has a message for anyone who wants to try fake weed.

“The high is great, but in the long run, it isn’t good,” she said, describing her experience smoking synthetic weed. “It’s no fun to be stuck in a wheelchair, to have to go to therapy or (possibly) die.”

Outbreak linked to synthetic pot

Fake pot sends teen to ICU

But she prefers to focus on the stuff she can do, like getting a perfect score on her first world history quiz. For the fiery-haired student, simply being back at school is epic.

Less than a year ago, in December 2012, Emily was on life support after several strokes left her paralyzed, blind and largely unaware of her surroundings. Her family has no doubt the drug that landed her in the hospital was synthetic marijuana. Her parents first believed she had only tried it a couple times. But they recently learned the extent of her use — Emily told them she smoked it daily for the two weeks before she went to the hospital.

Best known by the street names “Spice” or “K2,” fake weed is an herbal mixture sprayed with chemicals intended to create a high similar to smoking marijuana, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Advertised as a “legal” alternative to weed, it’s often sold as incense or potpourri and in most states, it’s anything but legal.

Emily’s stepfather, Tommy Bryant, told CNN last year that doctors diagnosed his daughter with vasculitis, which is an inflammation of the blood vessels. The vessels going into Emily’s brain were constricting, limiting blood and oxygen flow.

Emily is far from alone in her scary experience. Last week, three people in Colorado may have died after smoking the drug, according to state health officials. The Colorado Department of Public Health launched an investigation after 75 people were hospitalized in late August after using the substance.

CNN first wrote about Emily in February, after learning about her story through iReport. A lot of people were quick to say then that marijuana should be legalized so drugs like these aren’t on the market. Others pointed out after the Colorado news that marijuana is legal in that state. Emily’s stepfather, who has been in her life since she was born, is not interested in the debate.

“My focus is trying to get rid of this one bad product and not trying to substitute with anything else,” said Bryant.

Bryant and his family started an organization called Synthetic Awareness For Emily to educate families, as well as teachers and doctors, about the dangers and warning signs of synthetic marijuana use. He said his goal isn’t to scare students — he just wants them to be aware that this stuff is out there.

“I’m trying to get the kids to realize that one bad decision could lead to a lifetime of pain,” Bryant said. “Not just for them, but for their loved ones.”

It’s been a slow recovery. After months in the hospital, Emily’s family had to operate a lift in their home to move Emily from the bed or from the chair. Now Emily can stand up and shift herself, so it’s easier for her parents to transfer her on their own, her mother Tonya Bauer said.

Tell us your story!
We love to hear from our audience. Follow @CNNHealth on Twitter and Facebook for the latest health news and let us know what we’re missing.

She can’t walk, but she’s been taking physical steps at therapy sessions. Special equipment supports her body so she can focus on moving her feet.

Watch Emily learning to walk

Emily has difficulty lifting the front of her foot, also known as “foot drop.” Her feet point straight down when she stands up, which puts her knees and hips out of alignment. The family has opted for a tendon-lengthening surgery in the near future. Her mother hopes the surgery will mean Emily will be able to walk again one day.

As Emily recovers, she and her family try to find joy in doing small things. They go out to movies and ice cream here and there, and they even took Emily to a Drake concert a few weeks ago.

Seeing Emily sing along and be a teenager again, along with watching the handicap bus whisk her off to school last week, are signs that Emily is feeling more like herself, said her parents. And here’s more evidence: During her telephone interview with CNN, she sounded just like a typical 17-year-old girl.

“Our goal is to get Emily independent again so she can live on her own one day,” said her mother. “Having her go back to school has really made us see that this is possible.”



Comments

WGGB encourages readers to share their thoughts and engage in healthy dialogue about the issues. Comments containing personal attacks, profanity, offensive language or advertising will be removed. Please use the report comment function for any posts you feel should be reviewed. Thank you.
blog comments powered by Disqus