CINCINNATI -- Cheers erupted throughout the gym at Saint Henry District School Wednesday night as Valerie McNamara joined her son, Brennan, on the basketball court.
"I never thought she would be able to see one of my basketball games," Brennan said.
A building collapse in September 2016 left Valerie McNamara, a nurse and teacher, with traumatic injuries to her spine and brain, and she spent weeks in the hospital totally unresponsive to the outside world -- unresponsive to the sound of her family members’ voices, to her own movement as she was ferried through the hospital, to the pinches and pricks of the many surgeries performed on her while she was in her coma.
She regained consciousness in early October and began physical therapy at Frazier Rehab Institute in Louisville, Kentucky, but still struggled to understand or communicate with the people around her.
Her husband, Bryan, stressed patience in her recovery process. Friends and members of the family’s church congregation held fundraisers to help the McNamaras pay for her medical expenses, and Valerie herself was able to return home in time for Christmas.
And on Wednesday, having made incredible strides on her journey toward recovery, she -- now using a wheelchair -- joined her family and friends to watch her son play his last basketball game as a student at Immaculate Heart of Mary.
"It made me tear up," said Tina Neace, a friend of the family, of the moment Valerie and Bryan met Brennan at the half-court line. "She’s amazingly strong. She’s doing much better than we expected."
Even Brennan said he was surprised at how far his mother had come.
"(She went) from not being able to talk, really, or anything -- she would just whisper -- and now she still yells at me,” he said, cracking a smile. “And now she’s here at the game."
The basketball game was another fundraiser to help Valerie and her family as they continue to adjust to their new normal, and Valerie’s Prayer Angels are planning a dinner and silent auction in her honor for Valentine’s Day.