Jamie McKechnie and Ellen Murphy had been dating for two years before the attack that left Jamie bedridden and brain damaged.
The 24-year-old was walking home from a night out in 2011 when, unprovoked, a stranger attacked him by punching the back of Jamie’s head before running off, as reported by The Scottish Sun. Jamie was found lying in a pool of his own blood.
The attacker, Andrew Ellis, was sentenced to three years in jail, but was released after just one.
When Ellen arrived at King’s College Hospital, doctors informed her that the likelihood of Jamie waking up was improbable. Although Jamie opened his eyes after about one month, Ellen said that:
“[H]e was dead behind the eyes, there was no recognition, it was just a physical action.”
However, Ellen stuck by Jamie’s side, even proposing to him while he was in hospital.
Depressed by his state, Ellen, a soul singer who plays under the name “Only Girl“, stopped writing and performing. However, down the road she had the idea that music could help jog his brain and revert Jamie back to himself. She recalled:
“I thought maybe it would stir something deep within his brain. When he was first in hospital, I was so devastated I stopped doing music completely. It was only when he started talking again six months later that I started writing again. I would go into the rehab hospital and they had a big piano there and I would play to him.
There was one really funny instance when we put the radio on, and he’d only just started talking, and it was Annie Lennox, Who’s That Girl? and he started singing along to it. He could barely talk at the time, and he remembered the lyrics to this Annie Lennox song.”
Ellen even wrote a song for Jamie about his journey, entitled “Mountain.”
Near Christmas of 2011, just four months after the initial attack, Ellen begged for Jamie to speak. She recalled:
“I told him ‘I really want you to talk to me before Christmas, that’s all I want’. At this point he was eating food and stuff, but he wasn’t talking. And then one day I said something and he just went ‘no’. I was crying and saying ‘what else can you say’?”
Progress was only expedited from there. Just over three years after the attack, Jamie was able to take his first unaided steps… at his very own wedding. Thrilled, Ellen said:
“It was amazing – everyone said ‘that’s the best wedding I’ve ever been to’. Because you could feel the love from everyone. A tragedy can either split you apart or bring you closer.
It hit everyone just as hard, so the wedding was a great way to put that aside and be a normal couple for once, and not think about the brain injury or the disability, and live as we thought we would live before this happened.”
Six years later, Jamie lives as normal a life as someone in his situation could, volunteering in a bike shop throughout the week. For the most part, life proceeds as usual, though due to the specific areas of the brain that were affected, Jamie struggles with his motor skills at times.
Of her husband, Ellen said:
“The Jamie that existed before, that Jamie doesn’t exist anymore, that Jamie’s gone. As much as there’s a lot the same, he’s got the same sense of humour, it’s almost like the same Jamie but a different version.”