‘She is a fighter’: Ohio cheerleader whose heart stopped defies ‘extreme odds’ of recovery

Posted at 5:45 PM, Jan 03, 2020

AKRON, Ohio (WJW) — Norton High School cheerleader Emma Pfouts has made significant progress in her monthslong recovery after an asthma attack caused her heart to stop beating at her school's homecoming dance last year.

The 16-year-old's mother, Christina Weigand, posted an update on Facebook Thursday saying that Emma is "defeating the extreme odds and crushing them."

Weigand outlined the progress Emma has made since Christmas Day:

  • Realizing Emma understands speech, which Weigand says they didn't know she would
  • Realizing she can see, which they were told she probably wouldn’t
  • Opening and closing her eyes on command
  • Opening and closing her mouth on command
  • Sticking out her tongue on command
  • Pushing outward on her legs
  • Shrugging her shoulders (Weigand says she was leaning across Emma to fixing her gown and talking about someone shrugging their shoulders when Emma did it. Weigand was astonished.)
  • Laughs
  • Smiles
  • Moving her head up off the bed (Emma doesn’t have full control but has some)
  • Can squeeze her mother's hand (Not fully, but some)
  • Tracks family with her eyes
  • Partially rolls herself from side to back

Emma's family says that every day since Christmas they have witnessed progress and reactions that medical officials said might never happen.

In fact, on Thursday Emma even laughed as her family reminisced about previous events.

“This tells us she REMEMBERS!! I literally have tears in my eyes typing this,” Weigand wrote on Facebook. “Not only does she recognize us, her family, and her close friends, she remembers stories and things that have happened to her in the past!! This is HUGE!!!"

Weigand continued on, explaining the significance of her triumphs.

In October Emma was placed in a medically-induced coma and, at the time, her family was told that she only had "hours to live."

"I was desperately doing what I could to save her and that was all I knew to do," Weigand said. "Together, as family, friends, and a community, we all prayed. And, miraculously Emma made it through that dreaded night into the next day."

Weigand says the family was faced with numerous other life-or-death situations during Emma's journey. Adding that the medical team constantly reminded them of how devastating her injury was.

Then, about three weeks after she had been placed in the coma, Emma began to show signs of recovery. She was swallowing, yawning, moving her eyes and moving her hand.

However, on Thursday, Emma's doctors said that as of next week Emma has graduated to inpatient rehabilitation.

"This week, Emma has proven she is a fighter and SHE IS THERE! She has thoughts, she does remember things, she is way beyond what anyone said she would do and we couldn’t be happier," Weigand said. "The things she has done this past week, while they may seem like little accomplishments, they are actually monumental feats for her."

Emma's family says they are thankful for the support and prayers they have received.  Her mother hopes to post a video soon demonstrating just how much progress Emma has made.