Teen awakens from 11-month coma with no memory of COVID-19

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Joseph Flavill has no recollection of testing positive for the coronavirus last year — nor does he remember anything that happened during the past 11 months.

The 19-year-old Brit had been in a coma since March 1, 2020, after suffering a traumatic brain injury when the student was hit by a car while walking street-side in his hometown, Staffordshire Live first reported on Monday. It would be three weeks into late March before the UK entered its first nationwide lockdown of the pandemic.

“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.

Much of Flavill’s family have not been permitted to see him in person due to pandemic safety restrictions at Adderley Green, a rehabilitation center where he was transferred after waking up at Leicester General Hospital, where he’s been laid up since last year.

“How do you explain the pandemic to someone who has been in a coma?” asked 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,” 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, Flavill’s motor and cognitive functions are returning, slowly, said Smith. “We’ve still got a long journey ahead, but the steps he’s made in the last three weeks have been absolutely incredible.”

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