Updated 16 October 2018

UP student wakes up from 11 week coma: ‘We’ve been surprised by how strong she is’

Doctors are stunned by the remarkable recovery of a young University of Pretoria student, who’d been in a coma for 11 weeks at Muelmed Mediclinic after she was hit by a car.

Doctors are stunned by the remarkable recovery of a young University of Pretoria student, who’d been in a coma for 11 weeks at Muelmed Mediclinic, after she was hit by a car.

Adel Cato (20), a second-year B-Com student who stays at Magrietjie residence on the campus, suffered brain damage and a brain hemorrhage after being knocked down on her way to a restaurant on 16 July by a 24-year-old driver.

Her father, Frank Cato, says Adel started rehabilitation this week so she could learn to walk, talk and even eat again. 

“We were quite worried about her at first, but the team of doctors felt she had a 85% chance of recovery and leading a normal life again.

“Now we’ve received even better news. She’s progressing so well that doctors are even more cautiously optimistic than before: they say her chances of living completely normally have improved to 95%,”  he says.

Frank says Adel has lost the use of her right arm and her legs, but despite this was very positive and working hard to fully recover. 

“We were worried about her reaction when she realised she wouldn’t be able immediately to go back to university and was so much more restricted than before,” he says.

 “But we’ve been surprised by how incredibly strong she is. She pushes herself very hard with the rehab; it’s clear she really wants to get better.”

He says Adel’s brain function is low and her short- and long-term memory function is impaired.

 “She’ll think or talk about something, then later she’ll forget that she’d done so. Everything takes time and patience; we’re optimistic that she’ll recover,” he says.

Adel’s recovery was also set back by a stroke she suffered a few weeks ago as a result of bleeding on the brain. Doctors believe full recovery will take between 12 and 24 months.

“At this stage we don’t have any guarantees, but we believe in time she’ll be able to resume her studies. More than ever before we realise the path to recovery will be long.”

Frank says the family are in contact with the motorist who’d knocked down his daughter. The young man, who doesn’t want to be identified, has visited Adel in hospital. 

“It’s a difficult time for him too. He completed his studies last year. We realised that he also has to process the incident and we would like to give him the space to do that.

“His mother is in contact with my wife every day. She’s interested in Adel’s condition and progress and there are absolutely no animosity between us about this. ”