A British teen who slipped into coma before COVID-19 became a pandemic is now showing signs of improvement, regaining consciousness in a world much different from the one he knew.
Joseph Flavill, 19, fell into a coma March 1, three weeks before the United Kingdom went into lockdown, The Guardian reported. In recent weeks, he has been regaining consciousness, again being able to follow commands, move his legs and communicate through blinking.
His progress has left his family hopeful, even as they struggle to help him make sense of the world around him.
“I just don’t know where to start with it,” Flavill’s aunt, Sally Flavill Smith, told the Guardian. “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.”
Flavill was hit by a car in the central England county of Staffordshire when the United Kingdom had just 23 reported COVID-19 cases, according to CNN.
As of Thursday, the country has recorded nearly 3.9 million cases, according to Johns Hopkins University. The teen contracted the virus twice while in a coma, the Guardian reported.
Because of coronavirus restrictions, most of Flavill’s family have been able to check up on him only via video calls in the past 10 months, during which they have tried to briefly explain why they can’t be with him in person, Flavill Smith told the Guardian.
His mother has been allowed to visit him, but only at a distance and dressed in protective gear, according to CNN. She is waiting until it’s safe to touch him.
“That’s a big thing for his mum to emotionally manage, watching him through a screen,” Kate Yarbo, another aunt of Flavill, told CNN. “You want to hold his hand. You want to be there all the time.”
After a tough recovery journey, which included seizures, Flavill has improved in the past few weeks, Yarbo told CNN.
“We’ve still got a long journey ahead, but the steps he’s made in the last three weeks have been absolutely incredible,” Flavill Smith told the Guardian.
The family has set up a website, “Joseph’s Journey,” to raise money for Flavill’s recovery and to raise awareness of traumatic brain injuries.
As of Sunday, the family raised about $40,000, according to the website.