Content Warning: This blog contains information that may be distressing to some readers
Frankie Julia Hough – “Feeling hopeless and powerless, we witnessed life leaving her with each moment that passed by.”
By Calvin Buckley
On Saturday the 13th May 2023, I received a phone call from a number I didn’t recognise. When I answered, it was a lady’s voice. It was the partner of Franki’s eldest son’s Dad. I was confused as to why she would be ringing me as I had never spoken to her before. I could sense panic in her voice. She told me that Franki and the boys had been in a crash on the motorway and that they were all breathing but unconscious.
My heart sank and the first thing I thought was “she is going to lose the baby.” At that point I knew I had to get to them, a feeling of dread took over me. The crash happened about 10 minutes away from where I was. I told my cousin and brother that I needed to get to Franki, and I left.
I set off not knowing what horrors could be awaiting me. I felt sick, angry, anxious, fearing the worst, praying for a miracle. I made my way to the crash scene.
The motorway was busy, and traffic was at a standstill, so I travelled down the hard shoulder until I got to a point which I thought was the crash scene. Police cars were at the front of the traffic. I pulled up and a police officer approached me. I frantically and desperately told him “I am the partner of the lady in the crash” and that “I need to get to her.”
I couldn’t see any crashed cars and realised that the incident was further down the motorway. The police officer told me that I could not go any further and to get out of my car. I only had one thing on my mind and that was to get to Franki and Neeve. I said: “Sorry, I can’t” and drove on. Further along the motorway, I could see emergency vehicles at the back of stopped traffic.
I drove up to the traffic and got out of my car. I had to run through about 10 lines of cars until I arrived at the crash site, which can only be best described as a scene from a horror movie.
My Worst Nightmare
I remember emergency services and people everywhere. It was chaos. I could see Franki’s car mangled but not her. I couldn’t imagine how anybody could come out of that wreckage alive. The reality started to hit home how serious this was. The first person I saw was her eldest son, unconscious on the floor. His Dad approached me. I asked him: “Where is Franki? What’s happened?” he tried to get me to stop and talk to him and calm me down, but I needed to find her.
Then I saw Franki, my Queen, my life, my whole world, unconscious. I went to her and held her hand and told her she was going to be okay. I was angry and in disbelief. Who has done this to us? How could this be happening? Why now? How can life be so cruel?
Emergency services asked me to move away and were trying to comfort me, but I had to be near her and my baby.
I asked if the baby was going to be okay. They said they did not know yet. I was angry, I wanted answers, and nobody had them.
Then I saw her nephew who was also unconscious with emergency teams attending to him. Finally, I saw her youngest son in the arms of a lady. He was conscious looking confused and vacant. He came into my arms, and I held him close to me and tried to give him as much comfort as possible. It was also comforting for me. I held him in my arms for over two hours. It felt like an eternity. It didn’t feel real, it was like an out-of-body experience. Watching as people tried to fix and put the pieces of our lives back together.
As time passed, the severity of Franki’s injuries became clear. The paramedics told me that Franki had to be treated at the roadside before she could be taken to hospital, as she had suffered severe head and brain trauma injuries. They told me that the pressure in her brain was increasing and that they needed to release it. I stood there watching all of this, shielding her son. I didn’t want him to see his mother looking like this.
Whilst they were attending to Franki, they had emergency teams attending to the boys. They were all put into induced comas and taken to Manchester Children’s Hospital. Franki was airlifted to Preston Infirmary. I wanted to be by her side and was taken to the hospital with her youngest son.
When I arrived, I was told that Franki was in theatre having brain surgery, and that she might not make it through the procedure. Her Dad was there and his partner. Whilst Franki was in surgery, her youngest child was examined, and amazingly only had some minor injuries, scratches and bruising.
The wounds that he had couldn’t be seen by the eyes. The trauma of losing his mother at two-years-old is devastating.
Praying for a Miracle
Franki did make it through the procedure and was taken into critical care and put on life support. The surgeon came and spoke to me and her father. They told us that the injuries Franki had sustained had caused permanent brain damage and that she would not have any of her capacities if she pulled through.
They also informed us that she wouldn’t be able to manage her functions because of the severity of the injuries caused by the collision. We were told that Franki could pass in the next five minutes, half an hour, or a day, and that the extent of the damage meant she wouldn’t be able to keep herself alive without life support.
As part of the procedure, they keep the patient on life support for 72 hours and, after that period, that life support is switched off, and it is up to the patient to breathe for themselves. They prepared us for the worst and it was clear that they thought she would die once the life support was switched off. And that her injuries were so severe that they did not think she would be able to pull through.
Me and her father stayed by her bedside that first night praying for a miracle. Franki stayed in critical care for two days with her family by her side, until her final breath. Neeve’s heart was still beating strong throughout, the nurses let us listen to it, which was heartbreaking. Knowing that she couldn’t carry on without her Mum.
We were asked if Franki could breathe and keep herself alive without support, would they want us to try and get Neeve old enough to be delivered. The answer was yes. Any piece of Frankie would have been something to cherish. It became apparent that this wasn’t going to happen. We watched Franki slowly deteriorate. Feeling hopeless and powerless, as we witnessed life leaving her with each moment that passed by.
Franki and Neeve’s last hours
Even in her death, she comforted her family by giving us the opportunity to say goodbye. We all spent some time with Franki and Neeve on our own. I played some of our favourite songs. My emotions flooded out as the reality of what was happening hit me. My life, my world, my peace was ending. In the early hours of Monday morning, on 15th May 2023, Franki took her last breath.
Neeve was too young to make it without the love and support of her mother. She had somehow survived the crash but couldn’t survive without her mother’s love.
After Frankie and Neeve passed, all our thoughts and attention went to praying that the boys come through. It was the only outcome that could reduce the devastation of this tragedy. The boys were in induced comas for two weeks. Thankfully, both boys did regain consciousness. It truly is a miracle and a blessing that we are all grateful for.
The boys now must come to terms with losing their mother and Auntie. The effects of that day will stay with them for the rest of their lives. I can’t even begin to imagine how they must be feeling. They are on a long road to recovery, but their wounds will never heal. Nothing will replace what they have lost.
Read Calvin’s first blog in this series here: Frankie Julia Hough – My soulmate, my peace, my queen
Calvin Buckley is backing the RoadPeace Fix our Broken Justice campaign. Read more about the campaign here.
Updated on: 8 November 2023