A talented young figure skater has defied doctors by qualifying for the British championships – just months after she came only a millimetre from death when she broke her neck in a car crash.
Emily Dale, 15, was on her way to a development squad training camp in Ayrshire when she suffered a “hangman’s” fracture, so called because it involved the C2 vertebrae forcibly snapped in judicial hangings.
Her neck was so badly smashed she had to wear a metal halo screwed into her skull for three months and a hard collar to support her neck for a further eight months.
Had the break been just a millimetre more it could have torn her spinal cord and she would have died or been left severely paralysed.
Doctors believe her 15-hour a week training regime helped save her life but warned that she might never skate again.
Mum Gill, from Kingston, Moray, said: “I think that was one of the only times I saw her upset.
“Even when we went for a hospital appointment last September we still didn’t know if she’d skate again.
“Seeing the extent of the injuries on the screen was heartbreaking.
“She’s been very lucky.”
In the end it was up to a team of 26 specialists to decide if Emily should skate again.
And remarkably, in her first competition back after the accident, this summer she finished second and earned enough points to secure her place at the British Figure Skating Championships in Sheffield in November.
Emily said: “It was really exciting. I wasn’t even aiming for it in particular, I was just getting back into it. But it was amazing when I qualified.”
She also received a standing ovation from fellow skaters around the rink who were amazed by her comeback.
The accident on the A9, which happened when she was 13, left her mum with a broken arm and a brain trauma and her dad had to be airlifted to hospital after breaking seven ribs.
Despite the teenager’s ordeal, which could leave her with permanent aches and pains, she is determined to go as far as she can in the sport.
Proud dad Stuart Dale, 65, said: “They [doctors] said her level of fitness and her core strength at the time of the accident probably saved her life.”