Kimberly McNeill (centre) is busy catching up with friends, such as Beka Bryant (left) and her sister Elana. Photo / Supplied
Kimberly McNeill (centre) is busy catching up with friends, such as Beka Bryant (left) and her sister Elana. Photo / Supplied

Almost 12 months after a car accident nearly robbed her of her life, Kimberly McNeill is tackling every day with a positive attitude.

She has a part-time job, dates with friends, plans to study and a new sense of clarity as to where she hopes to be at this time next year.

Kimberly, 19, was severely injured after her car hit a power pole last December near Havelock North.

She was put on life support and transferred to Auckland City Hospital. After 15 days, her doctors turned off the machine against her family's wishes.

Defying all odds, she pulled through and was transferred to Hawkes Bay Hospital to begin a long road to recovery.

Less than two months after being given a grim prognosis, Kimberly began walking and talking and was able to return to the Havelock North home of her parents James McNeill and Jackie Kiddle.

Now Kimberly is bright and bubbly as she reveals a passion for singing, which helped her through recovery.

"After the crash, I could hardly speak," she said. "I was so gutted about my voice, I did everything to get it back. Fitness, stomach strength, Chinese herbs, and acupuncture. Music has been a huge part of my life."

Kimberly also enlisted the help of voice coach Ursula Williams, who she had worked with for about three years before the accident.

Ms. Williams remembers meeting up with Kimberly just weeks after she was released from the hospital.

"All there was was air, like a whisper, a husky sound. We just worked to eliminate that air with technique, and tried to get that tone to come through," Ms. Williams said.

At the time it seemed progress was slow, but looking back, Kimberly achieved a lot in a short time.

"Since the accident she has been more determined than ever," Ms. Williams said.

"It's purely positive, she works so hard when she's in lessons with me, she's so focused."

Kimberly's voice has gained in strength and clarity each week.

"She surprises herself sometimes. I don't know if her voice will sound like it did before, but I believe it will be just as good. Her voice is changing, it has a different tone, but that's not a bad thing," the voice coach said.

Singing and guitar lessons are part of the teenager's weekly ritual and have taken her a long way towards setting and achieving goals.

Asked if there was ever a time when she felt like giving up, or putting music in the too-hard basket, Kimberly said: "Never, I would never be happy without my singing."

All the lessons and countless hours of practice have been working towards the final aim of securing a place at the Music and Audio Institute of New Zealand (Mainz) next year.

Kimberly hopes to enrol in a two-year contemporary music performance course and was in Auckland last week for an audition with Mainz.

"I just want to meet other people my age who are passionate about making music," she said.

It is a change from the path she would have taken, had fate not thrown her a curve ball.

"I was going to go to Auckland University of Technology, but I didn't because of the crash, and I can't imagine being at AUT now."

While she waits to hear what next year will bring, Kimberly continues to sing, work and catch up with friends.

"I am working in an orchard thinning apple trees, but I have a job lined up at [clothing store] Guilty as Sin in Napier," she says.

"Time is precious in my world, I have got so much on, especially catching up with friends."

Also on her agenda is a live performance at Hawkes Bay's HBS Bank Christmas at the Park on December 10.

"I am not nervous about it, I'm more excited.

"I'm just so proud, I didn't have a voice at the start and now I do. It was all I wanted."

Kimberly will be performing an original song titled Here I Am as well as something to get people in the holiday spirit. "Dad and I wrote a tune called Christmas Time," she said.

Kimberly's guitar teacher Jason Alexander put her name forward for the event.