Young footballer had to be brought back to life three times after brain injury

Footballer James Stewart suffered a brain injury in a car accident which changed his life.

James Stewart
In June 2007, James Stewart was a passenger in the front seat of a car when it hit a tree in County Down, Northern Ireland. He died three times at the scene of the accident and had to be resuscitated. He suffered a brain injury and had to spend 11 months in rehab, but now can speak and walk short distances with a stick. Before the car accident which drastically changed his life, James’ father said that his 17-year-old son “just lived to play football. “James played for several amateur league teams and was in the process of signing for an Irish league club. That was his life. He was very outgoing and very, very active.” James sustained severe brain injury. As well as having to be resuscitated three times at the scene of the accident, he severed an artery in his cheek and almost bled to death at the scene of the accident. Doctors had no hope that he would survive the impact. James did, however, continue to survive. When he had survived 72 hours, his parents were told that his brain pressure was stable but if it increased it could become critical. It did increase, and James’ parents were told on the third day that he had two hours to live, as his brain pressure was “off the scale”. The family had to say their final farewells. His father recalls that “it was horrendous to see my wife trying to say goodbye to her first born son… it was just a terrible, terrible time. “My wife and I maintained a vigil at his bedside and we just could do nothing else other than pray that he would survive.” James’ brain pressure did miraculously decrease. Although he was still in a coma, he seemed to stabilise and improve. He was eventually taken off life support and admitted to a neurology ward, followed by a rehabilitation centre in Belfast. He remained there for 11 months and today James can speak and walk short distances with a stick. He is more confident and can interact with other people, although he does suffer balance and concentration problems, as well as mood swings. James receives support from Brain Injury Matters, a charity dedicated to helping people affected by acquired brain injury to rebuild their lives and reach their full potential. Dr Katy Pedlow works as a neuro-physiotherapist at Brain Injury Matters. She said: “Every service user is different and has been affected by their brain injury in different ways. We have both males and females affected by road traffic accidents and of various age groups. Our oldest current member is 74. Our overarching aim is to rebuild lives and integrate people back into the community and we have many success stories.”
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