A teenager who is emerging from a 10-month long coma has no knowledge of the coronavirus pandemic despite having caught the disease twice.
Joseph Flavill, 19, was hit by a car while walking in Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire, on 1 March last year, three weeks before Britain’s first national lockdown began.
He has spent months in a coma after he suffered a traumatic brain injury but is slowly beginning to recover and has started responding.
His aunt, Sally Flavill Smith, told the Guardian: “He won’t know anything about the pandemic as he’s been asleep for 10 months. His awareness is starting to improve now but we just don’t know what he knows.
“I just don’t know where to start with it. A year ago if someone had told me what was going to happen over the last year, I don’t think I would have believed it. I’ve got no idea how Joseph’s going to come to understand what we’ve all been through.”
She said the family have tried to explain over video call that they’re unable to be with him in person due to coronavirus restrictions, but haven’t attempted to explain the scale of the pandemic
“When he’s awake in his room, he’s not going to have any idea why he’s there. We do talk about it on the phone, and we try to make him aware that we really want to be there holding his hands, but we’re just unable to do it [because of Covid].
“But we try to keep it as simple as possible, we don’t really have the time to go into the pandemic hugely – it just doesn’t feel real does it? When he can actually have the face-to-face contact, that will be the opportunity to actually try to explain to him what has happened.”
The teenager, who was treated at Leicester General hospital and has now been moved to Adderley Green care centre in Stoke-on-Trent to continue his recovery, has started moving his limbs when asked and is engaging with family and friends through blinking and smiling.
Flavill Smith said the teenager is now able to follow commands such as touching his left and his right ear when asked to do so, move both of his legs, and answer yes and no through blinking, while his first smiles have brought the family to tears.
“We’ve still got a long journey ahead, but the steps he’s made in the last three weeks have been absolutely incredible,” said Flavill Smith.
He has caught Covid twice during his recovery from the accident but recovered on both occasions.
Flavill’s mother, Sharon, was able to visit her son on his 19th birthday in December but had to remain socially distanced and wear full PPE the entire time. “At that point, Joseph wasn’t as aware as he is now, and I think she felt incredibly sad because she wasn’t sure that Joseph could even see who she was. She’d been waiting for months to be able to go and see him.”
Before the accident, Flavill, from Tutbury, Staffordshire, was a sporty and active teenager and was due to receive his gold Duke of Edinburgh award in May.
Through their Joseph’s Journey campaign, the family have raised over £30,000 to support the teenager in his long-term recovery.