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Teen comes out of coma to a pandemic, after surviving COVID twice while he was ‘sleeping’

By PhilSTAR L!fe Published Feb 04, 2021 6:55 am

When his car crash happened, the world was normal—or at least his part of the world still was. The coronavirus had just begun to spread outside China—the US had one case, the UK had 23.

Now, the teenager who was involved in an accident three weeks before the UK first imposed a national lockdown has awakened. And his family is having a hard time explaining to him what has happened since he slipped into a coma.

On March 1, 2020, Joseph “Joe” Flavill was involved in a crash car while he was walking on Derby Road in Burton Upon Trent, where he was studying for his A-levels at the De Ferrers Academy, the Staffordshire Live reported on Feb. 1. 

The accident caused the 19-year-old severe brain injury, which left him in a coma for 11 months. His family is happy he has awakened but they are “wondering how they can explain the pandemic, lockdowns and social distancing to him.”

Joseph “Joe” Flavill. Photo from The Guardian

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.”

While Flavill was in a coma, only his mother Sharon Priestley could visit him at Leicester General Hospital due to COVID restrictions. The report continues that he has been moved to Adderley Green, which provides neurological, physical and cognitive rehabilitation four months ago, where he tested positive for coronavirus for a second time, which meant he had to isolate while there.

“Due to coronavirus restrictions, Joe's family are not able to visit him but they communicate through Facetime and his aunt said that his face lights up when he sees his friends and family on the screen.”

Flavill was taking his A-levels at the De Ferrers Academy. Photo from the FB page of De Ferrers Academy 

His aunt continued, “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?”

According to the website his family put up for him, he was due to attend Buckingham Palace to receive his Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award in May 2020.

“Until March 1, 2020 Joe's life was full of Club Hockey, County Cricket, A Level's, Surfing, Skiing. You name it he did it, with passion, energy, and a cheeky grin.”

The family has set up a fundraising page and shares videos of his progress on the Facebook page Joe’s Journey.

The market town of Burton in Staffordshire, England where Flavill’s accident occured. 

“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 Staffordshire reported.

Flavill is not the only one who has awoken to a world they do not recognize.

The BBC reported in August 2020 that ICU “patients who were seriously ill or in comas during the coronavirus pandemic have been coming home to ‘a different world.’”

“Some are dealing with ‘survivor's guilt’ after realizing they lost loved ones. And others wanted to do normal things such as watching football while they recovered, only to find the country was in lockdown.”