The last thing Joe Flavill remembers was walking along the street 11 months ago. He was hit by a car and has only just awoke to a world he barely recognises.
The 19-year-old student, from Staffordshire in the UK, was put into a coma three weeks before the nation went into its first nationwide lockdown on March 23 last year.
He suffered a traumatic brain injury, and is now without his family and confused after waking up from an 11-month coma at Leicester General Hospital. His loved ones cannot visit due to the UK’s strict lockdown measures.
“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,” said Sally Flavill Smith, Joseph’s aunt, in a statement.
“How do you explain the pandemic to someone who has been in a coma?” asked Ms Smith, whose nephew has also tested positive for COVID-19 twice — once while unconscious and again during rehab — and recovered.
“We try to keep it as simple as possible,” Ms Smith also told the Guardian. “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.”
For now, the family visits with Flavill via video calls, though in December he was granted a brief visit home to celebrate his 19th birthday with his mom, Sharon Priestley — but wearing personal protection equipment and remaining at a safe social distance.
Though far from fully recovered, Mr Flavill’s motor and cognitive functions are returning, slowly, said Ms Smith.
“We’ve still got a long journey ahead, but the steps he’s made in the last three weeks have been absolutely incredible.”