COVID-19: Teen who survived coronavirus twice while in coma is making steps towards recovery

·3-min read

A teenager who has been in a coma since the start of the pandemic has battled coronavirus twice and is now making small steps towards recovery, despite having little idea of what is happening around the world. 

Joseph Flavill, 19, was hit by a car while out walking on 1 March and suffered a traumatic brain injury, leaving him in a complete state of unconsciousness for months.

His family have not been allowed to visit him since he was moved to a care home - communicating only through FaceTime once a day - but they say he is now beginning to respond and is able to smile, blink and move his limbs.

"He can't communicate with us verbally and he's got very little physical response," his aunt Sally Flavill Smith told Sky News.

"We don't know if Joseph has any understanding of the pandemic or not but he spent many months in a total state of unconsciousness. So for many months, he would have no idea."

However, he has fought off the virus twice - once while in hospital and again at the beginning of this year.

His family said he was "very, very poorly" the first time he tested positive and they "weren't sure that he was going to make it".

"Not just because of the COVID but then when he contracted it on top of all of his other medical problems it was really devastating," Mrs Flavill Smith said.

Joseph, who was due to get his A Level results and pick up his Duke of Edinburgh award last year, spent his 19th birthday in the care home and only his mother was allowed to visit him for an hour because of COVID restrictions.

She had to be socially distanced and wear full PPE, including a face covering and visor.

"I think that was really challenging because from Joseph's point of view, you've got someone who's not close to you, who's wearing all that PPE and obviously not aware that we're in the middle of a pandemic," Mrs Flavill Smith said.

For those with a brain injury, stimulation is "crucial" and his aunt said the situation has been made much harder by not being able to "sit with him and hold his hand and just chat about what's happened".

"It's a feeling of grief," she added.

Before his injury, Joseph had been a massive sports enthusiast, trying his hand at cricket, football, hockey, surfing, golf and gym training.

His family have described him as "full of life" with a "real cheeky grin" - and a teenager who "loved a giggle".

But they hope he will continue on his road to recovery and have started fundraising for treatment and equipment for him when the time is right.

After setting up a GoFundMe page, the family has also launched a new fundraiser called Joseph's Journey World Tour which has got more than 100 people clocking up miles through walks and runs to "travel virtually" across the globe.