Ashleigh’s Voice

Ashleigh has not been able to speak since her accident over six years ago. She does not even make sounds or noises. A video endoscope showed that although the vocal cords did not close all of the way they were not paralyzed.

An odd thing has been happening that so far no one has been able to help us with. Sometimes, typically after Ashleigh falls asleep for a while, she will awake with a start. Her eyes are wide open and she is very alert. If you ask her questions at that time she can speak! The answers to questions are always appropriate and she also offers spontaneous speech.

We have asked every doctor and therapist we come in contact with and no one has ever heard of this. We are trying to figure out what exactly is happening during these periods so we can try to encourage it more. Is it better breathing, relaxed tone, better initiation? If anyone has any ideas please email us at

These speech periods only last a very short time. It seems it just gets harder and harder for her until she can’t speak anymore. A few times she was able to speak long enough that we called people and she spoke with them. Needless to say they were thrilled. We have tried to record it numerous times but at first we are so fascinated and try to keep her talking that we don’t grab the equipment in time. We tried to record it with a tape recorder and it ate the tape. We tried with a video recorder and we were always too late.

We finally have captured a few instances with a microphone attached to our computer. These are not really very good instances as she wasn’t as clear as she can be but at least we have it recorded. Also, the first words are always the best and it takes us a while to pull it together so we usually miss recording those. Just a note, at times in the recording we ask a question and you may not hear a response. Typically she is mouthing a response but does not seem to have the breath support to vocalize it. Also some of the louder responses are a little garbled because the dummy with microphone (me) has the microphone too close to her mouth.

Below are links to the audio clips. The first is from a few days ago and the second and third are both from yesterday. If anyone has any insight please email or call us, thanks.


  1. CINDY SCHOENING on June 28, 2006 at 2:36 pm


  2. Anonymous on July 13, 2006 at 11:52 pm

    I am moved by Ashleigh’s determination and your families dedication to her recovery. I suffered a TBI 9/12/03. My injury was closed head, but I had subarchnoid brain hemmoraghe, and I was in a coma for a month. The road back has been very long and sometimes disheartening. But, have faith. Although I still experience difficulty speaking, and some issue with spastic muscles, I have a wonderful family as well. When I become disheartened, my mom tells me, instead of thinking about where you want to be, think about how far you’ve come. I am praying for Ashleigh. She can whip this thing. Katherine Hardin

  3. Anonymous on August 25, 2006 at 11:03 pm

    My brother experienced a severe TBI in August of 2002. He was working highway construction at night, and putting the reflective orange barrels out. Unfortunately, a drunk driver drifted into the construction area, hit a police officer who was killed instantly, and ran over my brother causing multiple, severe injuries. A broken back in two places, broken limbs, a smashed face, a severe head injury with multiple skull fractures, lacerated liver, massive internal injuries – and the list goes on and on. He was not expected to live. He was brought in by Life Flight to a trauma center. He was recessitated 5 times, and a DNR order was signed. We were told if he did miraculously live, he would be in a vegetative state the rest of his life. He remained in a coma for 4 weeks, had multiple surgeries, including brain surgery 2 times to release pressure, drain fluids and blood, and try to piece his skull back together. In addition, the doctors wanted to amputate his leg due to the damage that was done, but my parents refused as it was not likely he was going to live.

    The path to recovery was hard, long and arduous. The rehabilitation centers, appoinments, the steps forward and back. He did live, and it is a miracle he has come to the point he is today. He has no taste or smell, cannot run, has short term memory problems and constantly has to work on his judgement as that was severely affected.

    I am now his guardian, and one month ago, I took him out of the Neurological Rehabilitation Center and moved him into my home. I am trying to see how he will transition into independent living. I am so proud of him as he has done so well. He is working again, for the same company he was working for at the time of the accident, although in another state. He does not work anywhere near traffic, but continues in the same industry, as if he never left. He is operating machinery and has impressed those around him. He has not disclosed to his new co-workers that he was involved in that hideous, tragic accident as he does not want to be treated differently.

    I talk to him often about how God has given him a second chance at life. How God must have had a reason for giving him this miraculous recovery. He has become a better person through this tragedy, and is determined not to let the residual affects of the TBI limit him.

    TBI injuries make it so hard to predict the path to recovery, as well as the extent of the recovery. Sometimes, it takes place over a significant number of years, and the recovery is slow.

    Ashleigh will continue to progress, but it appears that it is at a frustrating slower rate than your family had hoped for. Your strength, dedication and perserverance are admired, and she is so lucky to have the support the family provides. I can’t tell you how many TBI patients are put away into Neuro Rehab centers and basically forgotten whether intentional or not.

    Ashleigh continues to be part of society, no matter her limitations, and that can only help her. I am happy to see that she socializes, and she is included in activities by friends and family.

    As the previous blogger said – I have always told my brother to focus on how far he has come and to appreciate what life has to offer, as the outcome could have been so very different.

    He is no longer angry, and has become a lover of life. He has a young son whom he adores, and is trying to make up for the time he has missed as he is growing up. He is 1600 miles away from him, but we are planning regular visits so that they can develop a stronger bond.

    Keep up the hope, never give up and understand that God does work in mysterious ways.

  4. John on September 12, 2006 at 12:44 am

    I think I know how you feel. My wife suffered a BI two years ago, and has progressed from coma to living at home with me and our 3 sons. She has had moments of great clarity too through out her ongoing recovery. Usually in bed at night after she is well rested and relaxed. Her recovery has never been consistent, but I treasure the moments whenever they come as I’m sure you do with Ashleigh.

  5. Janet on September 14, 2006 at 3:23 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this valuable, ongoing diary of your daughter’s life, experiences, struggles and accomplishments. I am a graduate student in Rehabilitation and I plan on reading everything on this site. It is a touching tribute to someone who is loved very much, as well as a learning tool for others. Thanks Janet Casavant

  6. Janet on September 14, 2006 at 3:25 pm

    Thank you for creating this website. What a wonderful thing to do for your daughter and for people like me. I am a graduate student in Rehabilitation Counseling and this is a wonderful resource that I will share with my classmates. Janet

  7. Anonymous on October 13, 2006 at 9:55 pm

    you all keep praying and things will get better my son was in a car accident july 17 in a coma 18 days on ventalator feeding tube many broke bones svere head injury called diffuse axonial injury, doctors said if he maid it he would be in vegitated state the restof hislife well he is talking knows everyone and doing good,so god performs miracles

  8. Anonymous on November 13, 2006 at 10:21 am

    Thank you Ashleigh for your story. It has been so helpful to a family whose son was in a motorcycle accident 2 weeks ago and is in a comma. The experiences your family has faced are so similar to the ones this family has been facing. Knowing how to cope with all this anxiety from your family’s experiences has been so helpful by knowing you are not alone. We hope and pray that you and he will keep healing toward a “normal life”.

  9. shellie on January 29, 2007 at 11:57 pm

    my son was 18yrs at the time of his MVA single vehicle. He was commatose for over 5months in total. His injuries were also to shearing the brain stem, ICP, etc., I brought him home still in partial coma. As for insurance companies I use to be a licensed insurance broker until I was fired for bringing him home. Anyhow a mother’s love is like no other and dad’s love too. Ashleigh knows that too. My son had a problem with voice….I researched music therapy using his own music for speech. First we exercised the muscles and mouthed words first than gradually voice came. We should talk sometime I may be able to help if not be supportive as I too care for him full time. My email is my name is Shellie. My heart goes out to you and your family. Shellie

  10. shellie on January 30, 2007 at 12:02 am

    I have a son who suffered a brain injury 9 years ago. When wondering about her voice try mouth stretching exercises without voice to music that ashleigh liked before her son liked Waterfalls by TLC. If you’d like to talk it sounds like you and I have so much in common and being caregivers. A mothers love is like no’s love too. My son has done what they say couldn’t be done so miracles do happen and there isn’t a time limit on when they do happen just remember that. I continue to do research even today on brain injury. If you have msn I can be reached there or through my hotmail account at I live in london ontario take care shellie

  11. Daniel Betts on May 10, 2007 at 2:20 am

    Hello, all. First, an introduction. My name is Danny, a Severe TBI survivor who was in a motorcycle crash at work, a motorcycle dealership. I broke both hips, and dislocated my left one to the rear. I now have a titanium one. Parts, anyhow. I broke my lower spine (Sacral Ala), and T8-11 vertebrae. Broke 3 left ribs, one of which punctured my left lung. Brain damage…I was diagnosed as having a left frontal lobe contusion, left and right frontal hematomas, a left occipital hematoma, intracranial hemorrhage, and a diffuse axonal sub-arachnoid hemorrhage. Since sustaining my Severe TBI, I’ve gone banana’s learning as much as possible about brain injuries, so I could knock it into submission as much as possible.

    Shellie is quite correct…take advantage of the time’s Ashleigh does speak, even if it’s whispery, and this will strengthen her vocal cords. So that way she’ll have an easier time doing so, once she suffers less from the fatigue we all suffer from, in some form.

    Please understand (I’m sure you do already) that her speech will never return to the way it was before – or even close. I read that she had dramatic damage to her Medulla (brain stem), so therefore she must have extensive damage to her frontal lobe, from the bouncing alone. Our speech is controlled by a section of our left frontal lobe referred to as the Brugman (sp?) sector. Considering the damage, it’s quite the miracle she can speak so early in her recovery at all!

    Now, some survivor-proven hints/advice…our brains get tired, which is why we suffer from fatigue. THIS is why she speaks more easily right after waking up. I speak better an hour or so after waking myself, and I have difficulties with speech. I found something that helps with recovery in general of the brain…Omega 3-6-9 vitamins. My short-term memory improved dramatically in as little as a month after I began taking these vitamins. This should help her with her fatigue, and therefore her speech.

    Aside from that, keep up the strong support! This poor girl has amazing support from her family. This is so very important, as only those close to us can notice changes in us/problems early enough that we may overcome them.

    If you would like to contact me for any reason, my e-mail address is below. I am truly hoping that I have been of some assistance, and that Ashleigh finds my outcome so far motivational. It does get better, Ashleigh. For the rest of our lives we heal, neurologically (mentally).

    Get better, and I hope all goes well for you all! I’ll pray for you all, by the way.


    Broken-brained Danny.

  12. Anonymous on June 7, 2007 at 7:41 am

    I am new to this website but am so happy to have stumbled on it. My 22 year old son is now at home and I am taking care of him. He is speaking but I think I am the only one that can understand him. His speech is sometimes slurred and gargled but ok. Recently I have heard him talk in his sleep and amazingly while he does this it is very clear and in his old voice. While he is awake it doesn’t happen. All I know is that his brain and vocals in that area are in tack and someday it might just happen while he is awake. I will pray for Ashleigh as I am now a huge fan. 5 months ago I was told he would never wake up and here he is walking and talking. His short term memory is all of about 5 minutes but last month it was 5 seconds. Baby steps.

  13. crystal on July 17, 2007 at 7:06 pm

    i am glad to hear that ashleigh is doing better. i wish her the best. i am from nc, and the police showed up at my door on 11-13-06 and told me my husband was being air lifted to unc hospital, thats about 2 hours from where we live. he was on his way to work when a huge truck failed to yeild left and ran him over. he was 23 and just recieved his degree and we have a six month old and 7 year old. when i finally got there it was hours before we could go in sicu. the dr’s came and talked to us before they would let us in and told us the news. he is alive but we are not sure how long he will live. they told us his left side of the face was split open, broke his nose, broke his neck, broke his jaw, dislocated his left shoulder, a few broken ribs, right wrist broken, left and right femur bone broken. his right leg took the blow, it was an open fracture and a lot of bone is missing. he told us his knee must still be in his truck. he told us his knee and his wrist have metal holding it together on the outside, and his knee would need skin graphin and then he got to the serious part his brain is swelling so they put the icp cords in the right side since the left side is banged up. words can not explain what i felt when i fianlly seen him, he laid in a coma for 3 weeks and did not respond to any type of pain stimuli. then he opened his eyes, but not really all he did was stare into space, a week or so later he started reponding a little so they moved him to a step down unit. he was in there about a week, then they moved him to the fifth floor. where he laid in the bed for three weeks without moving. he talked really crazy, stuff like “he was 7, go get his plane ticket” etc….. on in dec they took him to cape fear vally rehab brain unit. i would visit him and hear him screaming down the hall because they had his knee on a cpm machine for 6 hours straight. his therpy was from 8 in the morning to 3 in the afternoon. he slowly started coming around but not all the way. he was released from there on 2-23-07. pt came to our house 3 times a week this went on a few weeks. then i had to take him to pt 3 times a week. they kicked him out because they said they did all they can do, his knees has no range of motion, so he is getting knee relpacement surgury in aug, he just had his jaw rebroke 7-9-07 because the first time they fixed it they put it together wrong. so now anything he eats has to be through a straw (for 2 months). we go back to the dr 7-20-07 for stomach surgury because the feeding tube they put in 6 months ago did not close up. it is amazing how everything heals, except the brain. he is doing a lot better but he is not the same man that he once was. he has a while to go. i just gave it all to god, and i pray everyday. during the stay at unc we to meet a family that was in the same boat. i hope ashleigh gets a whole lot better, dont lose faith, and i will keep her and her family in my prayers. thanks for you time, crystal
    any questions email me

    sorry for the miss spelling

  14. Anonymous on July 30, 2007 at 12:29 am

    I have a story of my own to tell about a young man I take care of. He was in a car accident 5 yrs. ago and now has TBI.When I came to work where I do, at first seeing him I didn’t recognize who he was. Only because when he was my neighbor he was very thin.He is now turning 31 and a hansome young man.When he first saw me he smiled like he knew who I was,from that day on my goal was to help him in any way I could.
    It is going on a yr of us working together and he has improved so much. You see he was unfortunate,they never did therapy. They told his mother that he wouldn’t live long and ” he’s TBI, this is how he will be.” How aweful it must have been for her when all this had happend.
    I have a special bond with him and his mother to the point that she has asked me to become his partial or full Guardian so I can live with him and care for him. When he first came to the home I work in he had no movement in his right side due to a stroke after the accident.He couldn’t speek a word.I started massage therapy on him and started teaching him sounds. On his Birthday last yr. He said MOM to his mother. She cried with joy and thanked me over and over. At this current time he has movement in his right side and is in therapy twice a week. It’s hard to get reliable help in homes now a days and he would end up alone in bed all day.
    His mom says that we have this bond that is undiscribable. He only wants to do things for me the most and I understand him and can comunicate like no one else can. I’m not a nurse but do have many certificates for the work I do and have done. I am going to be forty this year and even my children know who he is. My oldest son use to talk with him when we were neighbors. This is a small world and God put him and I in the same place for a reason.I’m glad that your family has done all they can to help your daughter in getting the right therapy and so forth. I’m learning as much as I can to some day help him walk. Never give up or let anyone tell you things are impossable,The love that we show people is what helps them try harder.we may feel like it’s taking forever but take a step back and look at the things that have changed. GOD BLESS YOU…

  15. jen_sweet18 on December 12, 2007 at 1:39 pm

    Hearing this story touched me a lot. I myself have a brain injury. I was in a car accident almost four years ago and I know how difficult this can be. I’m not in your position Ashleigh but I do have to live in this world with a brain injury and trust me its not easy.
    I truly hope for the best for you.
    Good luck and keep on fighting.
    You inspire me alot .
    your truly Jen
    P.S. You don’t know me but I came accross this while working on a project for brain injuries and I thought I would write you.

    You may contact me if you would like
    Good bye for now

  16. Anonymous on February 16, 2008 at 12:16 am

    Hi. I’ve just been listening to the tapes of Ashleigh.She is amazing. My son, Tyler, and Ashleigh share a birthday although he was born in 1985. He was injured last fall. He is improving rapidly and a good recovery is expected. I want to let you know that I ran across your site during the first weeks and found it comforting – an actual family rather than just doctors or social workers
    (though, of course, they’re helpful, too)
    I can’t imagine the pain of not hearing your daughter’s voice for so long. Once she started talking I’m quite sure it didn’t matter what she said – it was miraculous What a wonderful moment that must be for you to hear her say so clearly that she loves you.
    Thank you for sharing your experiences. I wish you much joy in your family. I wish Ashleigh the most full life she can possibly attain.

  17. Mikele on February 17, 2008 at 1:59 pm

    I was so pleased to find your blog and to read of Ashleigh’s progress. My daughter was passenger in a car that was hit by a drunk driver on January 18. She had a severe TBI, but has had a near miraculous recovery, and has returned home with almost no disability. We know that getting that last 10% back will be a long road, but hearing the stories of determination and slow recovery are music to my ears. Like you, we started a blog, which has been so encouraging and uplifting, especially for our daughter. Thank you.

  18. Anonymous on February 24, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    Our son, Scott was in a motorcylce accident Nov 10,2007. He has TBI in the right frontal lobe of the brain. He also had some fractured bones including three in the neck and teeth knocked loose. He was fortunate that the fractures stayed together and he didn’t have to have surgury other than having tube and shutes put in.

    He was in the hospital for two months and then we moved him to a place of his own with family members with him 24/7 for the first 3 weeks.

    Even though he made excellant progress in the hospital considering his injuries, he pro-
    gressed even faster once he was home.

    He still has definte problems and his recovery has slowed down but he is able to do his own laundry and heat food in his oven or microwave, do his dishes, clean his mobile home etc.

    We don’t know if he will be able to hold a job again or not and we have been in the process of trying to get him some financial help. Once the paper work is submitted the decision making seems to move very slowly.

    We are fortunate a most of our immediate family lives within 5 miles of Scott.

    We are now learning to walk the line of helping but not being intrusive.

    It is a joy to see the things that Scott can do and we feel that our family has been blessed. We live in a small community and there were many people praying for his recovery. We feel this was a great part of his recovery as he has come far beyond what the doctors told us what his life would probably be line 2 months ago.

    Your web site was given to me a couple of months ago but it is just today that I had the time or took the time to read it and print some of it for future reference.

    We pray that Ashleigh will continue to make progress and thank you for publising this web site.

  19. Anonymous on April 6, 2008 at 5:41 pm

    My son Sam was a passenger in a MVA July of 2004.We thought he was fine. in the ER sam had a concussion,dialated pupils and vomited several times and of course a nasty headache.The ER drs. said to watch him but he should recover fully.Sam was in and out of conciousness for several days and then appeared to get better.By the end of Aug. we noticed paranoia,by sept.dellusion, short term memory loss as well as carb loading. By nov. sam was arrested for drinking on the school bus and lost his job due to paranoia.No one would believe this wonderful kid was not the same due to a TBI. We were told he is schizophrenic or it’s due to bad parenting. It took 2 yrs. to get him into a special Ed. school where he will graduate this year. Sam has severe stress,no motivation,depression,fatigue,constant headaches, is still paranoid and delussional,his anger is maintained with lithium and stress with Lexapro.Sam is often depressed and describes himself as disconnected from his body.He says it is like trying to describe the color blue to a blind person.Sam is one of the strongest people I know and to look at him you wouldn’t know he has a TBI.Sam is always feeling guilty about now putting out eventhough he does all he can. I would like to tell all those who everyone says “well you look fine”to keep doing your best and God knows us all by our hearts and may he bless you all.When Sam asks me what his purpose is I tell him;To show others your faith and stregnth.Sammy’s mom

  20. V.Ross on November 2, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    I am a physical anthropologist who studied brains and also had a brain tumor that impacted many functions including speech. For me, and others I spoke with, sleep is THE most powerful healing agent for an injured brain. I could understand everything that was going on around me, but had difficulty finding words. It was like all the file folders were spilled on the floor and I couldn’t decide what to pick. Touch, reptition, and music helped bring words back to me. Keep encouraging her, as long as there is a trail there, there is a direction for the mind to heal.

  21. Jon on March 20, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    My 20 yr old son (Mike) was hit by a semi 2 yrs ago and suffered TBI and a broken neck and was in a coma..
    After MRI’s were taken the doctors started preparing us on how to care for a non functional person,long term.There was no response fron my son at all.That is if he survived.Then after a couple days they tried cooling his body temp to 92 degrees for 4 days to assist healing.We prayed for him whenever we were in the room and alone.I tested my faith.
    10 days after the accident my son moved a thumb,and when told to move 2 fingers,you could just barely see the tips twitch.within a couple days his eyes started to open.
    After months of therapy and prayers,Mike is back to work as a mechanic and doing fantastic.

    The man in the room next to him was brain dead and the day before the family was going to take him off life support,he opened his eyes and spoke.
    Later that day the same man could not be found. He was looking for his family…….

    Both our families prayed for each other.God allowed this all to happen.I will never forget and continue to tell this story.

    Stay with the hope and prayers…

  22. Anonymous on July 18, 2009 at 10:16 am

    My husband recieved a T.B.I from a car accident March 8 2006. That day I also was out from an injury to the brain for several hours.
    We also had our 6 week old baby in the car and he recieved a fractured skull from the accident. Thankfully our daughter who was 6 at the time did not recieve any injuries that day. However she did suffer post tramatic stress for a few years.
    Brain injury is something we are very familiar with. I am very thankful for the Brain Injury Association of Ohio.
    I was reading where you mentioned your daughter woke up in the middle of the night suddenly. My husband did the same thing. He would just fall asleep for a few minutes and wake up startled thinking he had slept for hours. Sometimes he wouldnt remember anything and we had to explain things to him over and over. At that time I didnt want him to go to sleep because I would loose him all over. Eventually that went away though. Now I notice improvment every year. I had the most trouble getting used to the new him and letting go of my real husband. We seem to be doing fine for now. Oue main focus is on our 3 year old who has severe speech problems and developmental delays.
    Just when I think I cant deal with BRAIN INJURY anymore I found this website. We have been blessed and we will get though this together. God Bless Your Family!!!

  23. laQuasia on February 21, 2011 at 11:39 am

    I have been on this website for about 30min reading info about the injury process, because my aunt is experiencing brain herniation. To hear the story about ashleigh really touches my heart. You”ll are really blessed and it goes to show, doctors don’t always have the last say so of how things may turn out in the future. I’m glad ashleigh is recovering well, I’m praying that my aunt will do the same. Hearing this story really inspired me and gave me more hope.

  24. Chris Willoughby on September 24, 2016 at 1:07 am

    hello 🙂
    my name is Chris, my daughter Kailey Rae Willoughby suffered a severeTBI 4-19-2015. the Dr from Craig Hospital/Rehab gave her an ambient sleeping pill after 100 days. she started talking within 1 hour. have you tried this. ? she tried so hard speech would shut down. 1 in a 1,000,000 but have you tried ?

    much love !! the Willoughby’s

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