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Wisconsin couple debuts album inspired by daughter's recovery from coma

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The Shermach family sits for a portrait.
Kate, Chris and Brittany Shermach sit for a portrait inside the Kling Center for Public Media in St. Paul on Nov. 6, 2017. Parents Kate and Chris wrote an album inspired by their daughter's nine-day coma in January of 2016.
Evan Frost | MPR News

It was a Tuesday morning in January 2016 when Kate Shermach couldn't wake her 18-year-old daughter. Brittany Shermach had been feeling sick the day before and thought it was just a cold. But when Kate peeled back Brittany's eyelids and saw a blank stare, she knew it was much worse. 

Brittany was rushed to a hospital in St. Croix Falls, Wis., and then on to Region's Hospital in St. Paul, where she stayed in a coma for nine days. Brittany was eventually diagnosed with encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain usually caused by a viral infection. 

As they waited in the hospital, not knowing when or if Brittany would ever wake up, Kate and her husband sang to Brittany. They hoped surrounding Brittany with familiar sounds would help her heal. 

It did. 

Brittany can't remember anything about being in a coma or even the days after she first opened her eyes. But she believes her parents' singing helped her. 

"They say that love ... is one of the biggest driving forces for the human body to heal," Brittany said. "And I completely agree with that. There was never a moment I was alone. There was always somebody there." 

Brittany's parents were inspired to compose an album about their experience based off the journal Kate kept in the hospital. 

"We took a look in my journal, and we realized that this could really be a chronology. We could tell this story [and] it could be closure for us, it could help us heal as a family, it can give Brittany an insight into what we were all feeling when she was under, and maybe we could even bring something beautiful out of a horrific situation," Kate said. 

The album, "The Awakening,"  debuts Tuesday. Their launch party is Friday at Dalles House in St. Croix Falls.