MUM-in-a-million Valerie Dennis went to hell and back when her son Lee was seriously injured in an accident - but winning a makeover made her smile once again.

The mum of three was nominated in our Mother's Day competition by her 11-year-old daughter Emily, who thought her mum should win the makeover for coping so well with the tragedy.

Valerie, of Milton, near Abingdon, faced a tough struggle when her 22-year-old son Lee fell down some stairs and fractured his skull while staying with friends in Dorset last August.

As if that wasn't bad enough, Val's nephew Kevin was involved in a car crash a couple of months ago and is also in hospital with a serious head injury.

Valerie and her husband's sister have been a tower of support for each other since both accidents, which have put a real strain on the whole family.

Although Kevin, 19, is just coming out of a coma, Lee has made good progress, although slow, and is currently at the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford.

Valerie and her husband Ron visit Lee every day, but still don't know when he will be able to leave.

His accident seemed very minor at the time and the family had no idea of the trauma they were about to go through.

"He wasn't looking where he was going and tripped and fell down the stairs. He phoned me afterwards because he had a headache, but he sounded normal.

"It happened on a Thursday and I will never forget that day. He was laughing with me and that was that. Then about half an hour later one of his friends phoned and said he didn't want to alarm me but that Lee's speech was a little funny and because they couldn't get hold of a doctor, they had phoned for an ambulance," said Valerie. Lee was taken to Poole Hospital and Valerie and Ron waited at home for news.

"I did not feel particularly perturbed by this point, but then the phone rang and a woman told me Lee had stopped breathing.

"The colour just drained from me and I went white," she said.

Lee had suffered a fractured skull which had caused internal bleeding. He was at Poole Hospital for about nine minutes before being transferred to the Wessex Neurology Unit in Southampton.

"I vaguely remember screaming when I realised the news was not good and I was hysterical. We drove 65 miles to the hospital and I cried all the way there.

"He was extremely ill and we were told the staff were playing it hour by hour. I didn't realise what the head injuries entailed until then," Valerie added.

"He looked asleep, but he had tubes all over him and with his head swelling, he looked like he had done ten rounds with Mohammed Ali."

Lee was kept on a life support machine for four weeks until one day he eventually half-opened one eye and his progress began.

Emily wrote a touching letter to the Oxford Mail to explain why her mum deserved to win our Mother's Day competition. Val, a partner at the Vera Legge School of Performing Arts, won a goody bag plus a makeover and portrait sitting at Oxford photography studio Gillman & Soame, worth £290.

After the makeover, she said: "It was really good fun. When I arrived, I was introduced to the make-up lady who chose golden and brown shades because of my auburn hair.

"It looked really good and everyone noticed the difference afterwards."

Val was told to bring in three different outfits to be photographed in and took in a black, strapless evening dress, a satin peach dress and for a casual look she went for a long black skirt and shiny blouse in green and gold.

"It took about three-quarters of an hour for me to have my make-up done.

"It made a big difference because I don't normally wear much make-up.

"I was really pleased with the results. It was really difficult to choose which photograph I wanted to keep, but in the end I decided on the casual look and will put it in the dining room.

"I think it was a really sweet gesture for Emily to have nominated me. I'm very tired and need a holiday, but I can't do that at the moment until Lee is better.

"But the makeover was wonderful and it was a lovely thing to do."

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