A YOUNG man from Barnoldswick who suffered a traumatic brain injury when the car he was travelling in was involved in a collision with a lorry has inspired a fundraising 'army' to support others with similar life-changing injuries.

Oliver Stevens’ family feared he would never see, walk or talk again after the crash in West Marton on July 15 last year.  Oliver, who was 21 at the time, suffered life threatening injuries when his friend’s car collided with a 40-tonne articulated Parcel Force lorry at around 9.30pm at the crossroads on the A59.

Oliver, who was a rear-seat passenger, suffered the worst injuries of the four people in the car, with paramedics spending more than an hour at the scene. Oliver’s lungs had collapsed and he was not breathing. Paramedics operated to save his eyesight before he was air lifted to Leeds General Infirmary – home to the region’s Major Trauma Centre, where he spent four weeks in a coma.

The 21 year old suffered several fractures to his skull, paralysis down his left side, and broken ribs and collar bone; his vision and hearing were also damaged. He spent months at the trauma centre in Leeds and a further nine weeks at Rakehead Rehabilitation Centre at Burnley General Teaching Hospital.

15 months on and Oliver, now 23, is walking and talking, but is still recovering at home with support from his mum Vicky Mara, who has had to reduce her working hours at family-run estate agents Move In Sales and Lettings in Barnoldswick.

He is also supported by his step dad John, who works for Rolls Royce in Barnoldswick; his brothers, and his dad Andy, who also visited him regularly in hospital. Oliver, a former pupil at Coates Lane Primary School, Barnoldswick, Ss John Fisher and Thomas More RC High School, in Colne, and Burnley College, needs regular physiotherapy, speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, and psychological support.

The left side of his body, especially his face and arm, still suffers from paralysis.

To help with his rehabilitation, and to keep motivated, Oliver decided to take on a 180,000-step walking challenge, around 85 miles, over 30 days to raise money for the charity that was there for him and his family - and on Saturday is due to complete the challenge, having so far raised more than £1,000. 

While at Leeds Major Trauma Centre, Oliver’s family was supported by the charity Day One Trauma Support, which provides a caseworker at the hospital to help people who have suffered catastrophic injuries. Day One provided Oliver’s mum Vicky with emotional and practical support, including counselling, legal advice, and a small grant to cover the immediate cost of travel and parking. Vicky, John, and Andy were commuting 80 miles each day to be by their son’s side.

The charity continued to provide support and advice while they were in Burnley, and today remain on hand throughout Oliver’s ongoing recovery. Oliver also continues to be supported by specialist law firm Sintons, which is a legal panel member of the charity.

Over the past month Oliver has been joined by family and friends to complete the walking challenge, even inspiring others to join Oliver’s Army and walk their own distance to support Day One. On Saturday (October 21), Oliver is due to complete his challenge in Barnoldswick, where he will be joined by all his family and friends for one last walk.

Oliver said: “I'm still in full rehabilitation and this will continue for a long time. It's hard to motivate myself some days, but this challenge has helped give me the motivation I needed to be more active and help my recovery.

"The money my mum and stepdad needed to visit me in Leeds General Infirmary was £250 a week. That was just for petrol and parking, not including what I needed. I was in hospital for five months. This is why I'm raising money for Day One Trauma Support. They are a small charity and hopefully you will never need them, but they need us."

He added: “Day One supported my family in our darkest days and continue to be there for us. They offer so many services such as counselling and legal information.

"I can't imagine not seeing my mum every day when I needed her the most. We were lucky to have such supportive family and friends, but unfortunately some people aren't as lucky as us and can't afford the travel expenses.

"Day One Trauma Support need more money to help all these families be with their loved ones. That’s why I wanted to give something back by walking 180,000 steps over 30 days – around 85 miles. This has been a huge challenge for me, alongside all my rehabilitation too, but it’s been amazing to get the support and donations for such a worthwhile charity.”

Oliver’s mum Vicky, added: “Oliver has always been a fun, loving outgoing person with a big personality, lots of friends and an active life in sports and fitness. Before the accident he wouldn’t have thought twice about walking this distance, but it has been a massive challenge. He’s done amazing and to see how far he has come in 15 months is mind- blowing.

“When you’re told your child has brain damage and might not walk or talk, you don’t know what the future will look like. It’s been hard and tough for us all, but he is so strong and motivated and we’re so proud of him."

She added: “When we got the dreaded knock on the door from a policeman who asked if I was Oliver Stevens’ mum, I just froze. He said Oliver had been involved in a serious road crash and the air ambulance was taking him to hospital. When you hear ‘air ambulance’ you know it’s serious.

“The time in hospital was scary. We were limited to how much time we could spend with him when he was in ICU. I was walking round in a bubble. All I was thinking is I want my son to wake up. I just wanted him to be fine.

“Day One Trauma Support were amazing. When I first met their caseworker I just broke down as the enormity of it all dawned on me. I had counselling, which I needed and likely to need in the future. It was really helpful. They helped with legal advice, which was so valuable. I wouldn’t have known where to go. I’ve since learned how important it is to get that legal support as early as possible as it is such a long process.

“I can’t imagine not having any funds to see your child on a daily basis. It’s sad that a lot of people don’t have the funds. For a single mother they might have to decide whether to feed their children or go to hospital, and that’s not a choice anyone should have to make. I can’t imagine what it would have been like without Day One. We hope people don’t ever need Day One, but if they do it’s amazing they exist and should be there for more people.”

Kirsty Christmas, fundraising manager for Day One Trauma Support, said: “Oliver’s story of recovery is truly inspiring. It’s been fantastic to see him back out walking after such horrendous injuries and we’re delighted that he’s completed his challenge, while raising money for Day One. With his help, we can ensure no one is left to rebuild their life on their own following catastrophic injury. A big thank you to Vicky, Oliver and his army of supporters for choosing Day One.”

So far, Oliver has raised more than £1,000 for the charity - to help him smash his target, visit www.justgiving.com/page/vicky-mara-1695553794491

In July this year, the driver of the car in which Oliver was a passenger pleaded guilty to causing serious injury by dangerous driving and was sentenced to a 12-month community order with 170 hours unpaid work and up to 30 rehabilitation activity days to attend probation service appointments. They were also disqualified from driving for 12 months and ordered to pay fixed costs and victim surcharge.