BRANDON — The teenage girl who was sexually assaulted last year while returning books to Bloomingdale Regional Library can now see pictures and colors, her mother said Wednesday.
The development was significant, the mother said, because the family has been told repeatedly by doctors that most patients who suffer optic damage seldom regain their sight.
When she was examined by a new neuro-ophthalmologist in January, he reported that the girl's pupils were active but only slightly, the mother said. He expressed great sadness over the assault.
Wednesday, the doctor gave the mother goose bumps.
During an exam, the girl was able to indicate through gestures the color of a nurse's hair and identify the picture of an airplane a few feet away.
"The first time he met us, he didn't want to crush our hopes and he just said 'sorry,' " the mother said. "This time, he couldn't believe it."
The doctor declined to be interviewed for this story.
During Wednesday's examination, the girl also was able to follow a nurse's hand as she moved it left to right in front of the girl's face, her mother said.
In the days after the April 24, 2008, attack, the girl had sobbed and asked detectives why she couldn't see before then slipping into a coma. She suffered multiple strokes that damaged her brain and left her unable to move.
The suspect in her attack, Kendrick Morris, now 17, remains in jail as the case winds through the court system.
The girl, whom the Times has not identified because of the nature of the crime, is still unable to talk, walk and swallow food. She relies on a feeding tube and a wheelchair.
She continues to undergo speech, occupational, aquatic and physical therapy daily. She also will resume twice-a-week homeschooling in the fall.
This summer, her girlfriends returned home from college and visited often. They have planned a slumber party at her house before they return to school.
"We still have so much sadness," the mother said. "But this is such a big milestone in her recovery. We are very, very happy. We still believe in miracles."
Dong-Phuong Nguyen can be reached at (813) 269-5312 or firstname.lastname@example.org.