SEAN Connolly, who mysteriously collapsed and fell ill while travelling in India in 2012, is smiling for the first time after a year of rehabilitation.
His family are now pushing to get him the very best treatment, and sister Kara, 23, along with friends Chanel Crewe, 24, and Abi Curtin, 23, are taking on an overnight bike ride from London to Brighton on July 12 to pay for private physiotherapy.
Sean, 27, who grew up in Liden before moving to London, suffered brain injuries while in India in circumstances which are still unexplained and his family needed money to fly him home as he had no travel insurance.
He returned to the UK following a huge online fundraising campaign to raise up to £100,000 gathered support from 23,000 Facebook members.
He has since had treatment at Great Western Hospital in Swindon and Bristol’s Frenchay hospital before being taken for specialist care at Glenside Hospital for Neurological Rehabilitation, Salisbury, last year.
Kara said recent improvements in Sean’s condition have filled the family with hope – he has smiled and responded to music, including the songs Summertime by Jamie Jones, Sing It Back by Moloko and Coma Cat by Tensnake.
“Everybody has got hope,” Kara said. “He is a fighter.
“About two weeks ago he started smiling, which is absolutely amazing. That is quite a massive improvement to how he has been so far. It seems like such a small thing to some people but really it is huge.
“It is difficult for us to see how much he is improving because we see him every day, but other people who go to visit him say there is a massive improvement. A lot of the staff there are saying he is improving a lot, so if everybody else can see it as well there is something going on.”
Kara now wants Sean to have a one-to-one carer on a daily basis to ensure no opportunity for treatment is missed.
“The whole point is to get him moving as much as possible, because obviously the NHS can only do simple things. We believe there is more effective care he could be benefitting from. Treatments all vary depending on how different people work.
“Glenside do physiotherapy but the whole point of private care is to get a more structured approach and more full on to really get the best of it. Glenside have been amazing, and what they have done for him already is just brilliant. He has got his own care, a nurse and a healthcare assistant.”
“Even when I go there and move him around a bit he seems to really enjoy it.”
The trio will be pounding the pedals by night on July 12 and aim to arrive in Brighton first thing the following morning.
“We haven’t really set a goal for the amount we want to raise because we are still in the process of talking things through with his physiotherapists,” said Kara Chanel is joining the ride as a family friend. “I have known the family for a long time, so if there is anything I can do for them I am going to do it,” she said. “The more people we get the more sponsors and more help for Sean. I used to have a bit of a crush on him too.”