It seemed an impossible dream. Staff at East Surrey college this week learned that their paralysed colleague Abigail Witchalls will return to work.
The basic-skills lecturer is making a recovery that is astonishing doctors, her family and friends, after she was left paralysed from the neck down in a stabbing incident near her home.
The 26-year-old mother can now eat, speak, move her arm and hand and sit in a wheelchair, and is making such good progress that a return to work is no longer considered impossible.
Her sister, Emily Hollins, told ESC staff that Ms Witchalls is being spurred on in her recovery by the prospect of resuming her pioneering role in running a family learning course in English for speakers of other languages.
Frances Wadsworth, ESC's principal, said: "The staff, students and I are thrilled to hear of Abigail's gradual recovery and we are inspired by her bravery and determination in the face of such difficulties.
"We are really pleased to hear, too, that she's already thinking and talking about returning to work, and we hope that we can be discussing that with her further just as soon as she is ready. We and her learners have missed her."
She had worked at the college in Redhill for two years before she was attacked near her home in Little Bookham on April 20 while out walking with her 21-month-old son Joseph. In a letter to ESC staff, Ms Hollins wrote:
"Abi is recovering some movement in all of her limbs. This is most noticeable in her right arm and hand.
"She can move her head and neck well, working with physiotherapists and occupational therapists to re-learn some useful movements. Abi is now also beginning to swallow and enjoy eating small amounts of pureed food. She is able to sit in a wheelchair for considerable periods of the day with the help of a brace to support her body and a hoist to lift her in and out of bed.
"Her breathing is much stronger, which enables her to speak softly. She only needs the support of a ventilator to help her breathe at night. She continues to show immense strength and hope for the future. Thank you for your continued support, thoughts and prayers."
She also told staff that ultrasound scans have shown that the baby Ms Witchalls is expecting is making good progress.