Stroke: Connor, part 2

Four years ago, aged 14, Connor Lynes had a stroke following a rugby tackle. Since then he has worked tirelessly to raise awareness of childhood stroke and brain injury.

Published: March 2019. Date of brain injury: March 2015 (child aged 14 years). At the age of 14 I had a stroke. My aunt Sara shared the first few months of this journey (in part 1) – there she explained how I tore an artery in my neck that caused a blood clot on my brain stem leading to two major strokes. This resulted in a brain injury. 
Connor in hospital
I had surgery at Hull Royal, then was at Leeds for eight weeks before going back to Hull Royal for two weeks (I recently made a film with Leeds Children’s Hospital sharing my story). I defied the odds and made an amazing recovery. I still suffer with fatigue, panic attacks and anxiety, major headaches, but the seizures I had after my injury have stopped and my speech returned to normal. I’m 18 now and am the founder of a charity and a speaker and campaigner on stroke and brain injury awareness. Here are some highlights of the past few years…

Winning at the Life after stroke awards

In November 2016, I won the Children and Young People’s Courage Award at The Stroke Association’s 'Life After Stroke' awards. These awards celebrate stroke survivors who have shown real determination and spirit and are working hard to raise awareness and hope.
Connor stroke award
At that point I had set up my own fundraising page on Facebook called Team Connor to raise awareness of brain injury in sport.

Speaking about childhood stroke

The following year, in October 2017, I spoke at one of The Stroke Association’s childhood stroke support and information days. You can watch my speech here (a 10 minute film). I talked about my achievements and struggles in the two years since my stroke. I also talked about the fact my family were told I did not have much chance of survival. By this point I was working with many charities, spreading information and fundraising. My own charity Team Connor Lynes, raising awareness in sport, was getting better known. I had also gone back to my love of rugby and was coaching under 10s rugby.
Connor speech
In my speech I said: “I have come so far on my journey and believe me I struggle every day and every night. I go to bed knowing I’ll face the same fight the next day. But I am lucky. I am here fighting. “Doctors still don’t know my prognosis because of the bloodclot on my brain and they didn’t give much chance of survival. So every day is precious. “I can’t change the past, and the horrors of that day, but I can change the future and I now want to help others by raising awareness. I now have new dreams, new hopes and now seeing other people smile makes me happy. “I will always be eternally grateful for the support I have received and if my story helps one person know there is life after stroke and not to give up then I’m happy.” A few months after the speech I featured in an article in the Daily Express about doctors not recognising strokes in children. At that point I was working hard running my charity, the Connor Lynes Foundation, and by January 2018 it had raised enough money to buy a sensory station to help brain injured and autistic children (for Life For A Kid Foundation).

Returning to rugby

Around three years after my stroke I was able to return to a rugby league pitch for the first time to play as part of the Physical Disability Rugby League.
Connor rugby
The Mirror Sport covered my return and wrote a piece about how I was a junior player due to have a trial at Hull KR when I collapsed after a match and shared my story of recovery. For the Physical Disability Rugby League, I played for Wakefield Trinity alongside former Super League stars. The new version of the sport allows players with various disabilities to line up alongside able bodied participants. At the time I said: “I was nervous before the game because of the injury I’d had through rugby, but once I got into it couldn’t stop smiling. I instantly fell in love with it after the first training session.”

My life today

I am prone to mini-strokes and will be on blood thinners for the rest of my life but I keep myself busy, my work has made me more confident and I live life to the full.
Connor in football shirt
Connor 18th birthday
I'm loving the Physical Disability Rugby League as there is no pressure and everyone understands me. It's given me so much to look forward to and the people who play all have their own amazing inspirational stories to tell and they all inspire me so much. College is sometimes a struggle but I do my best to go as I enjoy the course and it gives me social time as I don't go out much. The Connor Lynes Foundation continues to keep me busy raising awareness. I also support Life for a kid and have raised over £50k for individual charities making kids who have got disabilities lives a bit easier than before. A lot of awareness raising is done through social media – and that’s what kept me going at the beginning, encouraging me to walk again, for example. I use Twitter from my own account and the Connor Lynes Foundation account and I usually use the hashtags #bebrainaware and #Geteducated. I see more stories of childhood stroke being shared and my message to those children and young people is stay strong, and don't bottle up your feelings. It's a very scary time but you are not alone – please accept support. Read part 1 of Connor's real story. 
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