THE family of teenage cycle crash victim Ryan Smith are looking to 2014 with renewed optimism – after he made rapid progress following his move to the UK’s top brain injury unit.
Sixteen-year-old Ryan was in a coma for weeks after he was involved in a crash with a van last July whilst cycling to work near Chapel St Leonards.
And his life was initially in the balance as he suffered serious brain damage because he wasn’t wearing a helmet.
Now his paramedic dad Mark – who is leading an awareness campaign urging every cyclist to wear head protection – has revealed Ryan’s festive joy.
The pair are together at the Children’s Trust Tadworth rehabilitation unit in Surrey, where the youngster is having intensive therapy after being moved from Lincoln County Hospital on November 25.
“Ryan is here for six months of arduous occupational therapy and already the results are both stunning and very impressive,” said 46-year-old Mr Smith.
“It really is a fantastic place – although it’s a 400-mile round trip from here to Skegness and back.
“But Ryan’s made massive strides already after speaking his first words to his mum Julie and I three days before he came down to Tadworth.
“Now he’s eating orally instead of through a tube into his throat.
“And he can speak a few more words – mainly to say he’s hungry.
“His right side is very strong and yesterday he actually threw a ball, which was really beyond our wildest dreams when he was so close to death and in a coma.
“It’s really up to Ryan how much progress he eventually makes because he has the full support of doctors, therapists, his family and, of course, many friends.
“He’s starting to put weight back on because, before the accident he was 11-and-a-half stone and went down to below nine.”
“So far there’s been no left-sided activity, but we’re hoping that with time he’ll get that back.”
Before the life-changing incident, Ryan was a keen sportsman.
He was a Paralympics Ambassador for Skegness Grammar School, where he met gold medal winning athlete Richard Whitehead, from Nottingham.
Now his hopes of recovery are pinned on The Children’s Trust – the UK’s leading charity for children with brain injury.
Tadworth Court is the largest residential brain injury rehabilitation unit in the country.
And its 24-acre site also offers nursing and medical care for children with severe disabilities and complex health needs.
Dalton Leong, the charity’s chief executive, said: “Children and young people come here from all over the UK for rehabilitation following a brain injury, either caused by a tragic accident like Ryan’s or from a serious illness.
“While it’s impossible to predict what kind of progress a child will make while they’re with us, our team of therapists, nurses and carers give children the opportunity to make the best recovery they can.”