14-year-old girl makes miraculous recovery after being struck by 40-foot fallen tree

KTLA -- After being struck by a 40-foot-tall tree during a storm last month, 14-year-old Teresa Johnston defied all odds and fought her way back from the brink of death.

The Irvine girl was recovering in the hospital after brain surgery for nearly a month as a result of the Feb. 17 incident. She had been going to a neighbor's house to walk their dog when the large tree fell on her, causing multiple craniofacial fractures and severe brain damage, her family said.

Teresa still has a long road to full recovery, and it's unclear at this point if the brain damage will be permanent, but on Friday the teen was just happy to be home with her six brothers and sisters.

"It's really nice," she told KTLA. "I feel more free, instead of being in the hospital always cooped up inside. And just to be with my family felt really nice."

Teresa's dad, Roch Johnston, said doctors had to remove part of her skull because her brain had swelled so much, and it continued to do so after surgery, leaving her in grave condition.

"We had her on five different meds, and the neurologist sat us down and said, 'Any one of these meds should be able to lower intracranial pressure,'" he said. "And they have her on all five, which is the maximum allowable by law, and it's not stopping it."

The situation was so dire, the family began reckoning with the idea of Teresa's death.

"We were saying goodbye," Roch said. "We were saying, 'Go in peace, it's OK,' just in case she heard us."

But lots of medication and many prayers later — thanks to a Facebook group created by her sister that garnered support from around the world — Teresa fought back.

"A lot of the nurses used the term miracle with her," her dad told KTLA. "But only one doctor said — he pulled me aside and said, 'You know, the recovery of your daughter, is nothing short of miraculous.'"

Teresa still has many obstacles to overcome, including learning to read and write, and walk and talk again. But the outpouring of encouragement she's received has brightened her path, she said.

"I want to say thank you so much, because I think that's why I've been progressing so fast," she told her supporters.

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