THREE months after a roadside cardiac arrest left her with severe brain damage, Amber Fountain remains in hospital – unable to talk, recognise her loved ones or herself.
But the aspiring lawyer from Fratton, 25, has finally been taken off life support and her boyfriend of almost 10 years will fight to raise money for her recovery.
Construction worker and boxer Daryl Thomson will pull on his gloves on June 22 for a sponsored showdown for Amber at the Pyramids Centre in Southsea.
It comes after the 29-year-old was left ‘completely cold’ after getting a call to say she had gone into a cardiac arrest on the M27 on the night of February 16.
‘Her friend was driving her home after they went to a Bear Grylls survival weekend in Birmingham to celebrate her 25th birthday,’ he said.
‘She started gargling, stopped breathing and her friend pulled over and tried to do CPR, but she had to be taken to Queen Alexandra Hospital.
‘She then had another cardiac arrest and went 30 minutes without oxygen because they couldn’t restart her heart.
‘When I got to the hospital I saw Amber curled up in a ball on a table with all her clothes cut off and a tube down her throat.
‘I was told I could see her for two minutes before she was rushed down to the ICU.’
Since going to QA, Amber, who had been training at Strand, London to become a government tax lawyer, has awoken from a coma, endured subsequent seizures and has been put on anti-epileptic drugs and beta blockers.
She is now off life support, ‘semi-conscious’ and preparing to begin her recovery in QA's Phoenix Rehabilitation Centre when a bed becomes available.
Daryl, who ‘never thought he would wear his boxing gloves again’ after Amber’s cardiac arrest, said the thought of using his passion to fundraise for her is now ‘the only thing keeping him going’.
‘Amber is someone who would do anything for anyone,’ he said.
‘I’m trying to raise as much money as I can because if there is any equipment that can help her recover, we want it. We all want the best for her.’
Amber’s mum Julie, a 59-year-old mother-of-four, said every day since the cardiac arrest has made her ‘want to curl up into a ball’ – but she too is driven to give her daughter the best quality of life possible.
‘Her recovery is going to be very slow,’ she said.
‘At the moment she doesn't even know who she is or who we are.
‘But we want to raise all the money we can for Amber.
‘She is one of those people who is totally driven and she knows what she wants and where she is going.’
Part of the money raised by Daryl and Amber’s family is eventually expected to go toward a customised wheelchair.
After giving a speech Daryl is expected fight first at the June 22 event, which will run from 3pm until 9pm and feature a number of subsequent match-ups.
Of a £5,000 target, more than £3,300 has so far been raised.
To donate to Amber’s recovery fund, copy tinyurl.com/yyhhf5zx and paste it into a separate browser window.
Friend took paramedics’ advice to administer CPR
IT WAS friend Chantelle Jenkins at the wheel when Amber went into cardiac arrest.
With no medical history indicating the lawyer had any heart problems, the 26-year-old from Portsmouth said disaster struck in the middle of a normal conversation.
‘She made a sound as if she was choking,’ Chantelle said.
‘I was trying to drive, so I tried to hit her with my left hand and I could hear her breath becoming less frequent. It was such a struggle.
‘As I saw an exit for Whiteley her head hit the window and I thought “oh my god, what is going on”.
‘I pulled over, called an ambulance, and they tried to help me give her CPR while the call was playing through the car phone.’
She added: ‘The only way I can describe it, is that it was horrific.
‘Every stage of it happening felt surreal – even when the ambulance and the police showed up and they were talking to me.
‘I thought she was going to come around and we could talk about all this.’
Chantelle is now backing Daryl, and Amber’s family, to help fund a recovery that enables her to ‘make her own decisions and enjoy parts of life she used to’.
‘I couldn’t be more supportive of Daryl,’ she said.
‘Everything he has done has been amazing and he has shown how much he loves her.’
‘We share a special bond’
THE MAN who first taught Daryl to box will help put on the show set to raise money for Amber’s recovery.
Wesley Shipp has been by Mr Thomson’s side as a coach and trainer for almost a decade and will spearhead Next Gen Fight Promotions' event on June 22 alongside pal Mark Ellins.
Wesley, 38 from Portsmouth, said Mr Thomson’s selflessness to help raise the profile of the firm's previous events for charity has not gone unnoticed.
‘He has jumped on these shows and helped put people at tables for a load of good causes,’ he said.
‘He’s always been fighting for us, so it makes sense we fight for him and help him back out.’
He added: ‘If you’re a boxing coach or a trainer you have to share a close a bond with your fighter because you’re their eyes and ears in the corner.
‘Me and Daryl share that bond and I love him to bits. He is such a nice guy.’