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Football-mad Robbie saved by rugby ball after road accident left him in a coma

By Cate McCurry

Published 02/02/2016

Robbie Shaw with his mum Lauryn and dad Keith
Robbie Shaw with his mum Lauryn and dad Keith
Robbie in action before his accident

A schoolboy football star who was critically injured after he was struck by a car has revealed that his life was saved by an unlikely item in his schoolbag - a rugby ball.

Royal Belfast Academical Institute second year pupil Robbie Shaw was left fighting for his life with critical head injuries after being knocked down on the Ballygowan Road on the outskirts of east Belfast in December.

But after defying medical odds the 12-year-old goalkeeper was back home on Friday afternoon - and he spent the evening on his PlayStation while his parents treated him to a pizza.

Speaking from his east Belfast home, the chirpy schoolboy described the moment he was struck by the car seconds after getting off the school bus.

"I walked around the front of the bus and it was stuck behind all this traffic and then when I went to cross the road the car hit my pelvis and I went straight down on the side of my head," he said.

"Then my leg landed on a funny angle because I tried to land on my feet.

"If I hadn't done that I could have been paralysed or had a worse brain injury. There was a rugby ball in my bag that I was looking after for my friend and it softened the blow to my head when I landed on the ground. I don't even play or like rugby."

The young footballer - who plays for Northern Ireland, Bangor FC Youth and attends the Manchester United Academy - was in a coma for 10 days, watched over by his family, who endured the "worst time of their lives".

His mum Lauryn said that hospital staff didn't think he would survive because he suffered a traumatic closed head injury.

While it can take years for patients to recover from this type of injury, Robbie has overcome the worst in just eight weeks.

The outgoing student is now facing months of physio on his shattered leg but he hopes to be back playing football again within a year.

He has been inundated with gifts and cards from a string of professional footballers including Stoke and England goalkeeper Jack Butland.

"All the messages have really motivated me because I want to go back to football," he said.

"But I think it will take a few months for the leg to repair itself.

"When I woke up in hospital everything was blue, I thought they were faking my leg injury and I tried to move the pin in my leg. But it will mend itself."

His long list of injuries included a fractured skull, fractured pelvis, fractured tibia, fractured fibula, permanent hearing loss in his right ear as well as the traumatic closed head injury.

"His brain injury is the critical part. That's what could have killed him," his mum said.

"He had a procedure on the night it happened to put a monitor in his brain and he underwent re-constructive surgery on his leg because his leg was shattered.

"Because of the injuries he has there's not much you can do for it, there's nothing you can do for a fractured pelvis.

"There's nothing he can do for his brain injury, but he got away lightly enough that he hasn't needed to undergo too many procedures.

"It's just about mending himself.

"It was meant to be a gradual recovery but Robbie has jumped ahead of it.

"This type of recovery for closed head injury usually takes years, but Robbie has done more in eight weeks than most survivors do in their lives."

His quick turnaround is in stark contrast to what his family and friends had prepared for after they were told he might not wake up from the accident.

Just weeks ago, the "miracle boy" was in an induced coma for 10 days but he has come out fighting and is well on the road to recovery.

Mum Lauryn added: "He's meant for something, there's great things to come for him."

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