A British man has awoken from a 10-month coma with no knowledge of the COVID-19 pandemic—after contracting the virus twice while in hospital.
Joseph Flavill, 19, suffered a severe traumatic brain injury after being hit by a car in Burton upon Trent in central England on March 1, three weeks before the U.K went into its first full coronavirus lockdown.
Flavill spent several months in a coma but has slowly started to recover, making slight movements and answering yes and no to questions by blinking.
The 19-year-old contracted the virus twice while he was in the coma, but made a full recovery each time.
Speaking to The Guardian, his aunt, Sally Flavill Smith, said the 19-year-old was not aware of the pandemic that has killed more than 2.2 million people worldwide.
“He won’t know anything about the pandemic as he’s been asleep for 10 months. His awareness is starting to improve now but we just don’t know what he knows,” she said.
“I just don’t know where to start with it. 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.”
Smith said the family had tried to explain why they were only allowed to speak to him via video calls, but had not attempted to describe the full magnitude of the pandemic.
“When he’s awake in his room, he’s not going to have any idea why he’s there. We do talk about it on the phone, and we try to make him aware that we really want to be there holding his hands, but we’re just unable to do it.”
Smith added that Flavill‘s mother, Sharon, was able to visit her son in person on his 19th birthday in December, albeit while social distancing and wearing full PPE gear.
“At that point, Joseph wasn’t as aware as he is now, and I think she felt incredibly sad because she wasn’t sure that Joseph could even see who she was. She’d been waiting for months to be able to go and see him,” Smith said.
The family set up an online fundraising campaign, Joseph’s Journey, in order to support the 19-year-old’s recovery. The campaign has so far raised more than £32,000 ($43,000).
“Thank you so much, each and every one of you for your amazing support over the last few months,” an update from the family on January 31 said.
“All of the messages and clips that people have sent in have been an incredible support for Sharon and Joe and in addition, through everyone’s generosity and time, we have raised an astonishing £32,909.”
The family have been contacted for further comment.