Teenager in car accident wakes from 11-month coma with no knowledge of COVID despite catching it twice

Ross McGuinness
·3-min read
Joseph Flavill, 19, has just woken from an 11-month coma which spanned the coronavirus pandemic. (Reach)
Joseph Flavill, 19, has just woken from an 11-month coma which spanned the coronavirus pandemic. (Reach)

A teenager struck by a car has woken up from an 11-month coma with no knowledge of the coronavirus pandemic despite catching it twice.

Joseph Flavill, 19, from Tutbury, Staffordshire, was studying for his A-levels when he was hit by a car as he walked through Burton on 1 March last year, three weeks before England’s first national lockdown.

Flavill, known as Joe, was left with a severe brain injury and ended up in a coma for almost 11 months, but he is now awake and responding to loved ones through blinking and smiling.

He spent six months at Leicester General Hospital before being moved to Adderley Green neurological rehabilitation centre in Stoke four months ago.

Joseph Flavill had been studying for his A-levels before he was hit by a car last March. (Reach)
Joseph Flavill had been studying for his A-levels before he was hit by a car last March. (Reach)

In that time, he caught coronavirus twice – once while in a coma and again after waking up – but recovered on both occasions.

Only his mother, Sharon Priestly, could visit him in hospital because of coronavirus restrictions.

She was allowed to visit him at Adderley Green on his 19th birthday, but had to socially distance.

His family now keep in touch with him through FaceTime. In the past few weeks, Joe has started moving his limbs.

Watch: Can you catch the coronavirus twice?

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."

She said his face lights up when he sees his friends and family on screen.

"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.

Joseph Flavill, left, was a keen hockey player before the accident. (Reach)
Joseph Flavill, left, was a keen hockey player before the accident. (Reach)

"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?”

Before his accident, Joe enjoyed playing hockey and a number of other sports, and was waiting to receive his gold Duke of Edinburgh award.

He had planned on taking a year out after his A-levels to go travelling.

His family have set up a website, Joseph’s Journey, and raised more than £32,000 to help with his treatment.

Watch: What UK government COVID-19 support is available?