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Crash cruelly robbed James of career in football

By Kathryn Torney

Published 14/08/2015

James can now speak and walk
James can now speak and walk

Before a serious road accident changed his life at the age of 17, James Stewart from Co Down "just lived to play football".

His dad, James senior, told Detail Data: "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 lad was the front seat passenger in a crash near Crossgar in which the car hit a tree.

His dad explained: "He sustained severe brain injury. He died three times at the scene. He severed an artery in his cheek and almost bled to death. They gave him absolutely no hope."

James survived 24 hours. Then 48. Then 72. But soon his brain pressure grew to a critical level. "We were called by the neurosurgeon on the third day and told that James had two hours to live," James senior said.

"We were asked to get the family together to say their final farewells. It was horrendous to see my wife trying to say goodbye to her firstborn son. It was horrendous watching my daughter and son lie over James' bed and cry out to God not to let him die. My wife and I maintained a bedside vigil.

"Miraculously, the next morning his brain pressure did go down, 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 a rehabilitation centre at Musgrave Park Hospital in Belfast, where he was treated for 11 months.

Today, James can speak and walk short distances with a stick. But his balance and concentration are poor and he struggles with mood swings.

He receives support from Brain Injury Matters, a charity dedicated to supporting people affected by brain injury to rebuild their lives.

Dr Katy Pedlow, a neuro-physiotherapist for the group, said: "We have males and females affected by road accidents. Our oldest member is 74. Our aim is to rebuild lives, and we have many success stories."

Belfast Telegraph

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