Courageous rugby fan Connor Lynes had to give up playing the game he “lived and breathed” after an accident on the pitch left him with a near-fatal blood clot on his brain.
But after overcoming incredible odds the 15-year-old from Hull, who still lives with an uncertain prognosis, was inspired to set up a fund which has so far raised around £5,000 for numerous charities.
His efforts have earned him a nomination in the 13–18 Outstanding Bravery category of the Yorkshire Children of Courage Awards, which are supported by Yorkshire Post Newspapers.
Connor’s aunt Sara Lynes, 42, said: “It was just really overwhelming. He’s my inspiration anyway so I think it’s brilliant.”
When Connor was aged just one, he lost his father Ian to a sudden illness and moved in with Sara and his grandmother Elizabeth Simpson, who also died four years later.
That affected Connor badly, but he found happiness in rugby league. In 2010, aged eight, Connor was hit by a car while walking home from a football match. He suffered multiple fractures, had three operations and was told he could no longer play rugby.
Then after nine months of physiotherapy, he returned to the pitch and in 2015 was named clubman of the year for his side the Lambwath Lions ARLFC.
But in March that year Connor was involved in a nasty tackle during a game. He was taken off immediately, but seemed fine and went to bed that night excited for the Hull Kingston Rovers game the following day.
Disaster struck when Miss Lynes woke up the next morning.
“It was like an awful whining sound. I instinctively knew there was something not quite right. I found him slumped over to one side with a white foam coming out his mouth. He couldn’t talk or move his arm or leg.”
During the tackle Connor had torn an artery in his neck which made a clot break off and travel to an artery in his brain, causing a major stroke. Miss Lynes said: “Everything just fell apart. We couldn’t believe it.”
An operation cleared most of the clot before Connor was moved to Leeds General Infirmary for a second bout of surgery, which was unsuccessful in removing the remainder of it.
Connor was then put into a coma, and started to make a fast recovery when he came out despite predictions that he may have needed a wheelchair.
“Connor being Connor, within a couple of weeks he seemed to defy everything,” Miss Lynes said.
However, he later suffered another stroke, which that time caused a bleed on his cerebellum.
After another good recovery, he returned home six weeks later – but the clot remains dangerously on his brain. This means he can no longer play rugby and suffers confusion, memory loss, fatigue and sickness on a daily basis.
Miss Lynes said Connor was “gutted” because “he lived and breathed the game. He wanted to become a professional”.
But the Winifred Holtby Academy pupil decided to set up the Team Connor Lynes foundation, which raises awareness of brain injury in young people playing sport. It has so far made around £5,000 for the RFL Benevolent Fund, Life for a Kid, Paul for Brain Recovery and Leeds Paediatric Intensive Care Unit.
On the Children of Courage Awards, Connor said: “I’m very overwhelmed and honoured to be nominated, and proud of myself.
“But I couldn’t have got this far without the amazing support I’ve had from family and the rugby community.”
Hull KR players visited Connor while he was in hospital and the rugby league community has supported his fund.
Miss Lynes gave up working as a teaching assistant to look after her nephew. “Connor said that he used to get a buzz scoring tries and now he gets a buzz seeing people smile,” she said.