By Kim Schwartz, Texas Right to Life
41-year-old Jennifer Flewellen remained in a coma for nearly five years after a car crash in Michigan, but everything changed in August 2022 with just a simple joke.
Jennifer’s mother, Peggy, sought to bring a glimmer of joy by sharing a joke. To everyone’s surprise, Jennifer laughed.
“When she woke up, it scared me at first because she was laughing and she had never done that,” Means shared with PEOPLE. “Every dream came true. Today’s the day I said, ‘That door that was closed, that kept us apart, had just opened. We were back.’”
The breakthrough marked a new step in Jennifer’s road to recovery. She is now working to regain her ability to speak and move after being in a cocoon-like state where time stood still while her brain slowly healed.
Jennifer improved so much that by October 2023, she attended a senior night football celebration with her youngest son, Julian.
“She was my biggest supporter,” reflected Julian, who was just 11 when his mom fell into a coma. “So to have my biggest supporter back on the sidelines cheering me on, it was a surreal moment.”
Julian scored the game’s opening touchdown.
After the news spread about her attendance at the football game, Jennifer managed to secure additional therapy through Mary Free Bed, a local rehabilitation hospital.
When PEOPLE interviewed her at the rehabilitation hospital, Jennifer was completely animated and responded with nods to questions.
During Jennifer’s difficult journey after her 2017 car wreck, her family faithfully stayed by her side, with her mother, Peggy, visiting almost every day.
Peggy always held hope that Jennifer would one day respond.
When the long-awaited moment finally arrived, Peggy captured the event on video and immediately sent it to Jennifer’s family and friends. The following day, Julian and his brothers visited the hospital.
“I told her I was Juju, and her eyes lit up like, ‘Wow, it’s my Juju bean,’” Julian recalled. “But when she actually found out our ages and things like that, it broke her heart. She started to cry.”
Despite the challenges of catching up on missed time, Julian emphasized the importance of looking forward. “We’ve talked about the time that she’s missed, and we try not to, because it makes her upset,” he said. “But my grandma always tells her, ‘You can’t sit here and be sad because being sad is not going to get you moving forward.’”
At first, some of Jennifer’s family and friends doubted she woke up from her coma. The hospital staff, too, insisted that Jennifer would never improve.
Nonetheless, Peggy persisted in advocating for therapy for her daughter, who, at first, couldn’t make a sound. With determination and a little whistle, Jennifer eventually managed to bring air up.
“I asked for therapy and they thought I was crazy, but she got speech therapy,” said Peggy.
“You have to be a strong advocate,” she added.
When Jennifer was told her that she looks ready to take on the world, the persistent mother responded, “I am.”