Helena was always helping people. Her little six-year-old sister, Gwen, had justified the coma to herself as God wanting to keep Helena because she was so helpful and caring. She hadn't woken up because she wasn't sure if she didn't still have a purpose on Earth so she was sleeping while she decided. Gwen told me that when I waited with her while her parents were visiting and I'd nearly cried.

I used to talk to her, every time I went. I'd tell her about all the things that were happening. I told her I missed her. I told her I needed her. She didn't listen because I think she knew that I was wanting selfish things, she would have told me in those moments that I was already strong enough, I just needed to see it.

She had been helping someone when the accident happened. Helping an old woman who had dropped her shopping in the middle of the road while crossing. She ran straight out to help her, letting go of my hand and going into the road. I watched her pick up the things with the old lady who was getting upset. Everything was in slow motion until it happened. She slowly picked up each item, slowly put it into the bag, slowly picked up another, the woman slowly moved to get an apple that had rolled onto the pavement while Helena slowly continued to pick up more items. And then suddenly she was gone – flung across the road after the car hit her. It didn't stop. Didn't care if she was still alive. Then it was my turn to run into the road. I thought she was dead.

Each day I went to see her, the nurse would sadly shake her head. No. She wasn't awake. That would be accompanied by pity all over her face – she didn't think she was ever going to wake up.

I thought I had tried everything. But then I started to think about what was important to her, what she had always loved. She could play the piano so beautifully and she often wrote her own music – she said life inspired her. We had a song she had written. Her sister had a song. Her parents had a song. The day I thought of it, I went home and made a CD of all the songs she had created. I took them in the next day and played it for her quietly. A nurse came in and saw what I was doing, she told me that music often worked for people in a coma and that I should try using headphones, to make sure she could hear it.

The next day I brought the headphones. The same nurse was in and she smiled at me and then helped me set it all up again. Then she left us alone and I played the music. I sat with her for hours, letting her listen to the music over and over. Eventually a nurse came in and told me that it was the end of visiting hours. I got up to leave, devastated that the music hadn't had an effect. The nurse smiled sadly at me and said that I should try again, that it might take some time.

I had just begun to leave when I heard a shout. The nurse came running out and shouted me back.

She's awake, she'd said. She's awake and she wants to see you.