Zumyah’s Story: Just the Way You Are


Zumyah and Laka Thorpe lost their mother, who was pregnant, and two younger sisters when a drunk driver ran a red light and smashed into the family’s car in 2013. Laka survived the accident with a concussion and bruise but Zumyah, now 12, suffered traumatic brain injury. Surgeons at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital removed a portion of her skull to alleviate brain swelling.

For three months, doctors kept Zumyah in an induced coma as her family waited and prayed. “It was touch and go,” said Rhonda Thorpe, her step-grandmother.  “I remember whispering in her ear, If you fight, I will fight. Grandma needs you to fight with everything you have.”

Zumyah did fight. Once out of her coma, she slowly regained some language and motor skills lost in the accident. When nurses played songs by her favorite singer, Bruno Mars, Zumyah sang along and knew the words by heart.

"I am absolutely convinced that singing those Bruno Mars songs and being able to say 'Bruno Mars' is in itself a miracle, and knowing all the words to the songs has helped her recover," Nancy Bass, MD,  a pediatric neurologist at UH Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital told WKYC in 2013.

When the pop star learned through social media about Zumyah’s accident and that his songs were helping her heal, he arranged a private meeting and sang songs just for her and her family. When Mars performed at Quicken Loans Arena in 2014, he dedicated his hit, “Just the Way You Are” to his special guest, Zumyah. After the show, the pop star posted a photo with Zumyah on Instagram with the caption: “Tonight’s show was dedicated to this amazing young woman. I love you, Zumyah.”

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