Manoa girl hit
by falling tree
emerges from coma

Julia Engle, the 12-year-old Manoa girl who was severely injured when a large pine tree crashed into her house last month, has emerged from a coma but still has not spoken, according to her family's attorney.


Julia Engle: The 12-year-old has been able to eat and walk, with help, but has not spoken

The girl's doctor "feels that her condition improved sufficiently that she was no longer in a coma as of this weekend," attorney Rick Fried said yesterday.

Her emergence from the coma was a "very slow process," he said, noting that the swelling of her brain has declined and that there has been a gradual return of some motor functions.

She is more aware of her surroundings and is progressing, but still has a long way to go, Fried said.

Engle, a seventh-grader at Punahou School, was in a coma for more than two weeks after a 70- to-75-foot Norfolk pine tree crashed into her bedroom while she slept on the morning of March 15. Fried has said the Beckwith Street tree was damaged by termites. The city removed seven termite-damaged Norfolk pines from the street last week.

Thomas Engle said that his daughter has been fed through a feeding tube.

"Every day we see a little improvement," he said, adding that she ate a small portion of chocolate pudding yesterday. "That's the first (time) she's eaten."

"I've been really happy with the progress. In the last four or five days, she's been making progress," he said.

With the help of others and a walker, she has been able to take a few steps.

"Her left, nondominant side is much stronger than her right side, and she has been able to hold a marker and make crude circles on paper," Fried said.

But Engle has yet to speak, he added. She is scheduled to see another doctor to determine what kind of rehabilitation is needed.

Engle's hula teacher, Carolee Nishi, strummed an ukulele and sang Engle some of her favorite songs, such as "Ka Lehua I Milia" and "Sanoe," at the Queen's Medical Center yesterday.

"She's a wonderful dancer and a diligent student," said Nishi, who runs Hula Hui O Kapunahala at the Nuuanu YMCA. Engle has been a member of the group since she was 6 years old.

"Her progress will be day to day, and we wish for the best. She is moving her hands and legs -- that's very promising," she added.

"She's a wonderful person. She'll do very well. She's very good that way. Whatever it takes for her to recover, she'll do it," Nishi said.

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