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[June 08, 2007]  LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) -- Emily Adams was doing nothing unusual, nothing reckless when she lost her ability to speak. The teenager from Pocahontas was helping her father last month with yardwork -- he on the riding lawn mower, she about 30 or 40 feet away with a push-mower. Without realizing it, Tom Adams struck a rock with the lawn mower. The rock -- about the size of a softball -- soared across the yard and struck Emily in the throat and chin.

"I looked over and saw her holding her neck, motioning for me to come to her," Tom Adams recalled Wednesday as Emily was being prepared for surgery at Arkansas Children's Hospital. "And I went to her, didn't know what had happened, didn't even remember hitting no rock or nothing.

"I jumped off the lawn mower and went over and she more or less just collapsed in my arms."

The teen clutched her throat as blood dribbled from a cut on her chin. Her father scooped her up, carried her inside and eventually got her into an ambulance that took her to the Randolph County Medical Center.

"At the time, she wasn't breathing, she had really stopped breathing," Tom Adams said. "I thought she was just hyperventilating, and I told her to just breathe."

What the family didn't know then was that the impact of the rock fractured Emily's larynx, making it nearly impossible for the teen to speak or breathe.

Initially, hospital workers thought Emily's throat was just swollen. But after a worker called Arkansas Children's Hospital to discuss Emily's case, medical staff decided to life-flight the teen to Little Rock.

There, she underwent a six-hour surgery and received a tracheotomy, where a tube is inserted in the throat to help with breathing.

More than three weeks later, Emily was back in Little Rock on Wednesday -- her 14th birthday -- for another surgery. This time, doctors planned a microlaryngoscopy -- surgery on the vocal cords.

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Emily can't talk yet, but doctors are hopeful she may someday regain use of her voice. It likely won't sound the same, her parents have been told.

Wearing pink slippers before surgery, Emily communicated with her parents and visitors by mouthing words. When asked whether she was ready to start drinking liquids again -- everything now must be honey-thickened -- she nodded vigorously.

One of eight children, Emily is now the center of attention, her father said with a laugh.

"We got her a bell at the house to ring when she needs us, needs somebody to listen to her," he said.

Although Emily's injury was far worse than her family initially thought -- her mother, Wendy Adams, said doctors first thought the teen could be treated and released at the Pocahontas hospital -- her parents remain optimistic that their daughter will someday speak again.

But the randomness of the injury is still hard to grasp for the family.

And for his riding lawn mower, Tom Adams said: "I cannot imagine that thing throwing a rock that far and doing that much damage, but it did."

[Text copied from Associated Press file; article by Jill Zeman, Associated Press writer]

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