Seven years ago, Jamie McKechnie was the victim of an unprovoked “one punch” attack on the south-east of London.
Hit in the back of a head by a total stranger, he fell on his face to the ground and suffered a serious brain injury.
To the left of the BMX enthusiast in a state of coma for nine weeks. The doctors gave him a 30% chance of living.
But with the support of his family, Jamie learned to talk, walk and even cycle again.
His girlfriend Ellen Murphy, who sings under the name of the Only Girl, was by his side throughout the recovery – and pour your emotions into the music.
One of the songs that he wrote in that period, the Mountain, has been released, accompanied by a moving video that chronicles Jamie’s journey through rehabilitation.
“I thought it was really important for people to see what we went through,” she says. “To prove that the footage of his time in rehabilitation, and especially to understand the consequences of a sense of ‘stroke attack’ and how this can completely change the life of someone.”
Final Youtube, published by onlygirlmusic
Elena was only 25 when Jamie was attacked in August 2011. The couple had just returned from a family vacation in France, and Jamie had gone for a night out with friends.
“I was in my house and I received a phone call from his friend that was with him,” he recalls. “I had a very bad feeling, like an instinct that something was not right.
“He told me that James had been attacked and he was lying unconscious on the floor. My first question was: “what Is dead?”, and his friend was like, ‘I don’t know”.”
Jamie was taken to the neurology unit at King’s College Hospital. Elena ran to his side, but, by the time she arrived, he was already in a state of coma.
“Even thinking about it now, I wonder, ‘How can I get through that?'” she recalls. “I think your mind blocks the memory. I don’t know what I was doing during those 24 hours.”‘Brick in the wall”
The doctors warned Jamie to the loved ones that he might never awaken, says Elena. “But I never let myself think of that as an eventuality.”
Instead of reading to him, showed him the photos, put on your favorite BMX videos and made a playlist of their 10 favorite songs, which she plays in a loop.
“Anything to stimulate their senses – touch, sight, sound”, explains Elena. “We would like to take him out of the wheelchair.
“It was like trying to communicate with a brick wall at times. Would you like to get no response. But I just thought there’s got to be something to do, so I’m going to keep trying.
“Then, in December, he suddenly spoke.”
It was two days before Christmas of 2011. Jamie neurologists were “very surprised” that he had woken up, but the family stepped up their efforts to help you recover.
“I remember that all those who spend Christmas Day at the rehab center – my father playing the guitar, singing songs of Bob Dylan,” says Elena.
“At the time that Jamie was still very closed, but you could tell in his eyes he had recognized the music and he was looking around, very alert.
“Throughout his recovery, I found it so fascinating how music helped”, he says, explaining how Jamie could remember the lyrics of a song, even when his speech was limited.
“I remember once I was sitting in his hospital bed and put me in the Eurythmics song Who’s That Girl? – and he suddenly started to sing,” she says.
“And I was like, ‘I’ve never heard him sing that song in my life!'”
Even so, it was, without a doubt, a traumatic time – and Elena without the burden of emotions in your own music, each song becoming a narrative of her and Jamie’s story.
“Music is a very cathartic, therapeutic way of processing their emotions without going crazy,” she says.
Elena – that as the Only Girl has worked with Zero 7, and earned the support of BBC Music Introduction – launch of the Mountain last week.
Only Girl Music
A touching, thoughtful ode to hope and love, and sees Murphy singing: “Even though words we could not speak, in his heart still I could reach out / I always knew you would come back to me.”
In the video, she and Jamie standing, hand in hand, in front of a video screen projecting home videos of their life together.
“It was incredibly surreal,” she says of making the video. “It’s like watching that happen to someone else.
“This [life] has become something normal for us, but when you see it all together in chronological order like that, you’re like, ‘Oh, my God – we went through this together.’
“You forget that, in a moment, Jamie could not lift his hand, could not climb stairs, could not brush their teeth – and is now back on his bike, working in the bike shop, go to the bar, getting drunk.
“It is quite remarkable and I forget that sometimes.”
The video’s most striking moment comes when we see Jamie walk without help for the first time – as he went to the altar to get married with Elena in the year 2014.
“It was a great milestone for him,” she says, “and obviously made it more exciting.
“Everyone was crying and clapping for us. It was really a great moment.”
Jamie never fully recover from his injuries so that his assailant was sentenced to three years in prison. (He was released after a year.)
In Bittersweet, another song Ellen’s upcoming EP, the singer describes “the bittersweet feeling of having Jamie back and he recovery, but also the loss of the person I was before.
But she hopes that, by sharing her and Jamie’s experiences, can give strength to people in similar situations.
“This shows that you should never give up in any situation, no matter how terrible it seems.”
She has given the Mountain to the brain injury, the charity’s Progress, which continues to support Jamie, and seeing a great response when she plays the songs live.
“We did an acoustic show last week and I felt like I was going to cry all the time,” she says.
“And when I left the stage, a guy came up to me and gave me a big hug.”
Only Girl is going to represent the uk in the South By South West festival in Austin, Texas, at the end of this month.
Their EP, Young Blood, will be launched with a special show at Thousand Island in London on 3 May.
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