The power of music is undoubted. It can inspire, lift our spirits, bring us to tears, and leave an indelible mark on our memories. It also has the power to save lives.
Charlotte Neve knows all about that power, because she wouldn’t be here without it. Last April, the seven-year-old was in a coma after suffering a brain haemorrhage. Nothing had brought it on; she had spent the previous evening watching DVDs.
Doctors told her family there was no hope of recovery, and they should say goodbye. Her mother, Leila, chose to do something else. She overheard their favourite song, playing on a nearby radio, and decided to sing Charlotte to sleep one last time. The song was ‘Rolling in the Deep’ by Adele. As she sang, Charlotte smiled.
Stunned medics told Leila to keep singing and, eventually, her daughter came round. Yet doctors cautioned the family that the girl they knew would be gone. Charlotte, they said, would never talk or walk again.
Six months on, and she can do so much more. I sit in on lunchtime and a lesson at the youngster’s primary school. She talks to everyone without issue, runs across the playground, laughs at her friends’ jokes, and puts her hand up to answer a question in class. There’s little hint of the trauma she endured. The lingering effects of her brain injury, particularly to her eyesight, appear to cause few problems.
Charlotte’s teacher sums-up such progress in one word: “amazing”. Her mother says: “She’s doing everything she used to do”.
After school, Charlotte heads to dance practice. At a hall, close to her home, she springs across the floor as part of a newly-learned routine. To those watching, including me, Charlotte looks like any other aspiring dancer. The latter, says her dance instructor, is “a very special thing to see and be part of”.
For any parent, there’s a special pride in seeing their child succeed at something, but Leila Neve’s pride is unique. Witnessing Charlotte dance so well, in front of an audience and TV camera, brings her to tears. The Neve family came so close to missing out on such precious moments.
The tears also have something to do with the song Charlotte is dancing to. An Adele song that will forever mean something to her and her family, that it can never mean to anyone else.