Paul and Amanda Hoban know they are lucky their daughter Robyn is alive.
She was one of the passengers in a Seat Leon which was involved in an horrific crash with a taxi on the A6120 in Horsforth in the early hours of June 30 in which four young men were killed. Brandon Frew, 19, Caelan Megson, 21, Matt Walshaw, 18, and Declan Grove, 19, described as ‘the best lads you could ever meet’ died at the scene. Robyn, who was just 16 at the time, another 17-year-old girl and the taxi driver survived but suffered serious injuries.
“We know how lucky we are,” says her roofer dad Paul. “It is a miracle she survived. But our thoughts go out to those families who lost a child, that could easily have been us. The whole community has been rocked by what happened.”
But the last nine weeks have also been life-changing for the Hobans from Cookridge, who have another daughter, Rebecca, 19. For weeks they stayed at their daughter’s bedside night and day as she slowly returned to consciousness. Robyn, who played netball for West Yorkshire and is a cheerleader, broke her pelvis, neck and ribs. She was also ‘degloved’ which means her scalp was torn off. But despite these devastating injuries and the psychological effects of the crash, Robyn was determined to return to Horsforth High School this week to gradually resume her A-level studies having only been discharged from hospital less than two weeks ago.
Her experience over the last two months has actually helped her decide what she wants to do with the rest of her life. “I had no idea what I wanted to do before the accident, but the care and support I got from all the staff the LGI (Leeds General Infirmary) and then at Chapel Allerton Hospital made me realise I really want to be a nurse, I want to give something back.”
The Hobans say their journey has also been made bearable by the help and support from trauma charity Day One at the LGI which today announced it is expanding across all West Yorkshire hospitals.
The not-for-profit service funded by Leeds Cares, sourced Robyn a wig, which helped give her her confidence back.
“It has made going back to school easier but I don’t mind not wearing the wig, it is part of what happened.” They also put her in touch with Sarah Johnson who was in the M62 crash five years ago which killed Bethany Jones, 18, and now acts as a peer supporter for Day One.
“It was so amazing to be able to talk to Sarah,” says Robyn. “She is young and has been through a similar experience to me and just listened when I needed to talk. Mum and Dad and the doctors and nurses were there all the time, but sometimes I just needed someone else to talk to.
“We have become really good friends. She messages me to check I am ok and if I’m not she will call me for a chat to find out what’s wrong.” Robyn has been so inspired by the help Sarah has given her that she wants to become a peer supporter for Day One when she is fully recovered.
“If I can help just one person it will mean that something positive has come out of this terrible tragedy,” says Robyn, who keeps in touch with the mums of the boys who lost their lives. She can’t remember anything about the accident and it was her dad who broke the news about the boys’ deaths.
“I was away at the World Cup in Russia when it happened and was due back later on the Saturday,” says Paul. “When Amanda phoned me to say what had happened I tried to get an earlier flight back from Russia but couldn’t.”
Robyn’s mum Amanda, a medical secretary at St James’s Hospital, was woken by a call from her sister saying Robyn had been involved in an accident.
They went to the scene of the crash and she went with her daughter to the hospital. Amanda says the next days and weeks are a blur. “We just took it day by day, in fact we still are. Robyn has come such a long way but there is still a long journey ahead.” Robyn was on a ventilator in intensive care for a number of days after being put into an induced coma. “You watch her every movement from the first twitch of her finger,” says Paul who spent a month sleeping on a camp bed next to his youngest daughter. “When she came round she put her hands to her head and felt that she had no hair and started to panic, so I told her what had happened.” Robyn has since received support from psychologists to help her come to terms with what happened.
The family have been moved by the level of dedication staff showed from the beginning and throughout Robyn’s ongoing journey. A maxillofacial surgeon had the job of reattaching Robyn’s scalp, which involved a large number of staples and has left her with a large scar around her head. She had surgery to her pelvis which now has two screws in it, which Robyn hopes will be removed soon. After five weeks in the LGI she was moved to Chapel Allerton last month where she had to undergo neuro-rehabilitation which is ongoing as she tries to get her life back to normal. It is clear that Robyn, who turned 17 in hospital, is an extremely positive and determined young woman who wants to get on with her life. Her parents are understandably protective and want their daughter to slow down.
“She wants to run before she can walk sometimes,” says Paul.
“Robyn is so positive, despite what she has been through,” says Amanda. “She has really helped us cope.” From the outside it is only the scar on Robyn’s forehead that shows anything happened to her on that fateful night, but she and her parents know that the emotional scars could take a lot longer to heal. But they believe she has been given the best chance thanks to Day One and the NHS staff in Leeds.
The Day One servicefunded by Leeds Cares, will be expanded to the trauma wards at Airedale, Bradford, Harrogate, Huddersfield and Pinderfields Hospitals. The not-for-profit support service was set-up in 2014 by a group of surgeons and former patients at the Leeds Major Trauma Centre. It complements the medical care delivered by the NHS Trust, by offering financial and legal advice as well as access to counselling. Day One also offers access to a ‘peer-support’ service where current patients are matched to peer-supporters, trained volunteers who have had experience of a similar incident.The announcement was made at a celebration event today to mark its fourth anniversary of the service which has helped more an 400 patients.