Teen wakes up from 11-month-coma with no knowledge of the Covid pandemic

A teenager who was hit by a car just before the first coronavirus lockdown has now woken up – with no knowledge of the pandemic which has affected the world.

Joseph Flavill, known as Joe, was hit by a car on March 1 last year while walking through Burton, in Staffordshire.

The 19-year-old has spent all that time in a coma at the Leicester General Hospital, but he has now opened his eyes and is moving his limbs when directed.

His family are thrilled at the progress he has made – but are wondering how they can explain the pandemic, lockdowns and social distancing to him.

His aunt, Sally Flavill-Smith, said: ‘At first his eyes were open but he wasn’t responding to anything, but over the last few weeks he’s taken amazing steps.

‘He’s really trying to engage and blinks and smiles. He’s raising his limbs on instruction.

‘He’s making really good progress. We’ve got to try to remain positive.

‘He’s definitely making improvement.’

The teenager, who was studying for his A-levels before being hit, has even caught coronavirus twice – once while he was still in a coma and once since waking – but has come through it.

And only Joe’s mum, Sharon Priestley, was allowed to visit him in hospital due to Covid-19 rules.

Joe was moved to Adderley Green in Stoke, which provides neurological, physical and cognitive rehabilitation, four months ago to help continue his recovery.

Sadly he tested positive for coronavirus for a second time which has meant he has had to isolate while there.

Due to the restrictions Joe’s family are not able to visit him, but they speak on FaceTime and his aunt said his face lights up when he sees friends and family on the screen.

She added: ‘It’s the best we have seen him recently. It might seem like little progress but the fact he can give the nurse a high five is a really big step.

‘It’s unbelievably hard for his mum not being able to see him.

‘We also don’t know how much he understands as his accident was before the first lockdown and it’s almost like he has slept through the whole pandemic.

‘It’s hard as we know he is more alert, but how do you explain the pandemic to someone who has been in a coma?

‘A brain injury is very much the unknown, so we haven’t been given an idea of what to expect really.’

Now the teenager is progressing well after opening his eyes and in the last few weeks he has started moving limbs when he is told to do so.

He is engaging with family and friends through blinking and smiling.

His mum was allowed to spend time with him at the home on his 19th birthday, but had to stay socially distanced. She is also doing his laundry and sees him at the door when she drops it off, but is still missing being with her son through his recovery.

Before the accident, Joe enjoyed playing hockey and other sports, was an air cadet and was waiting to receive his coveted gold Duke of Edinburgh award.

His aunt said they want him to start on his physiotherapy again, which was helping but he had to stop due to coronavirus restrictions.

Joe had wanted to take a year out after completing his A-levels to go travelling, so now his friends and family are doing something special for him.

Around 100 people are cycling, walking, running and rowing to travel the equivalent of an around-the-world trip at home.

Each day all the miles are added up to see how far they have got, with the team already having completed 8,000 miles in 20 days.

The family have set up a fundraising page to help cover costs of any treatment he may need in the future.

Videos are also shared on the Joe’s Journey Facebook page so the teenager can follow what his friends have been doing.

They also have a website where more information is available for those who want to get involved.

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