Young footballer had to be brought back to life three times

Case study: James Stewart lived for soccer until a horrific crash changed his life

Before the road accident which so dramatically changed his life, 17-year-old James Stewart from County Down "just lived to play football".

His dad, James senior, said: “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.”

In June 2007, the Saintfield teenager was the front seat passenger in a horrific car crash close to Crossgar in Co Down. The car hit a tree.

His dad explained: “He sustained severe brain injury. He died three times at the scene of the accident and had to be resuscitated. He had severed an artery in his cheek and almost bled to death at the scene as well. They gave him absolutely no hope of surviving the impact.”


James survived 24 hours. Then 48. Then 72. At that point his parents were told that his brain pressure was stable but if it increased it could become critical.

“We were called by the neurosurgeon on the third day and told that James had two hours to live. His brain pressure had gone off the scale and there was absolutely nothing they could do. We were asked could we go and get the family together to say their final farewells, and during that time we got everybody together and they went then one by one.

“It was horrendous to see my wife trying to say goodbye to her first born son. It was horrendous watching my younger daughter and son lie over James’ bed and cry out to God not to let him die, to save his life. And then all other family members going in. 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.

“Miraculously the next morning his brain pressure did go down. And the next couple of days were critical, but he seemed to stabilise and things started to look up after a five-day period. But he was in a coma so it was just a waiting game.”

Eventually James was taken off life support and went to a neurology ward and later to the rehabilitation centre at Musgrave Park Hospital in Belfast where he was treated for around 11 months.

Today, James can speak and walk short distances with the aid of a stick. He is more confident and can interact with other people. However, his balance and concentration are poor and he struggles with mood swings.

James receives support from Brain Injury Matters, a charity dedicated to supporting people affected by acquired brain injury to rebuild their lives and reach their full potential – including people involved in road traffic accidents.

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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