Kiernan Roberts was just 16 when he was left for dead by a drunken hit-and-run driver.
He was left with catastrophic life-changing injuries, including a fractured skull, brain damage and a broken neck. He spent nine months in hospital during which time his family feared they may lose him as he suffered a number of life-threatening setbacks. He even had to have a third of his skull removed to reduce pressure on his brain.
It is three years since he returned home to Elloughton, East Riding, from Castle Hill Hospital hardly able to walk.
But his determination and positivity, and a massive support team, have paid off and the keen cyclist is now back on his bike.
“Kiernan has always had a positive attitude towards his recovery and has continually focused on what he can achieve rather than focus on what he has lost,” says his mother, Marie, a teacher.
“He sets himself short and medium term goals and is determined to achieve them. He will always have weakness down his right side and suffers from extreme fatigue and his memory isn’t good so I can’t see him ever being able to hold down a job, but he is going to college, does sport and still plays in a band.”
Kiernan was knocked off his bike by drink-driver Owen Finn as the teenager returned from work. Finn, then 64, was sentenced to three years in prison at Hull Crown Court after admitting causing serious injury by dangerous driving, failing to stop after an accident, failing to report an accident, and drink-driving. He was also banned from driving for 11 years.
The crash happened on Elloughton’s Brantingham Road in October 2016 at around 11pm as Kiernan cycled home from his part-time job at a nearby restaurant
The A* student had ambitions of studying in his favourite city of Berlin and possibly becoming a political journalist before the crash. His father, Tony, was one of the first on the scene as was a doctor who helped Kiernan.
“It has been very hard for the entire family,” says Marie, who has two older daughters. “Everyone deals with things differently. Once we knew that he was going to survive you then have to come to terms with having a son with a severe head injury and everything that entails. Our main focus has always been to ensure that he has a meaningful life while reducing his dependence on his support team.”
Following the accident, Kiernan’s solicitors, Irwin Mitchell, recruited a rehabilitation team so that Kiernan could have access to the care, therapies, equipment and housing he needed.
Prior to the accident, Kiernan was a keen cyclist and despite being knocked off his bike he very much wanted to be able to ride again.
He worked intensively with a specialist neuro physiotherapist and occupational therapist and was also given a static bike from a local charity, the Humber Bridge Sportive, with members organising sponsored bike rides to raise the relevant funds.
After extensive physiotherapy improved Kiernan’s walking, gait and balance, he was able to ride the static bike, which was no small achievement given how physically impaired he was after the accident.
Having gone from strength to strength, Kiernan now wants to take his cycling to the next level and start circuit riding in a supported environment.
“It was very scary when he first said that he wanted to get back on a bike,” says Marie.
“He attends a club with adapted cycles in East Park with his support workers, which allows him to pursue his interest in cycling for leisure as well as to assist with his recovery,” says Marie. “Once lockdown is over, Kiernan is hoping to make use of a cycle circuit facility where he can enjoy traffic-free road cycling in a safe and enclosed space and hopefully me and his dad can go with him. There are a lot of these types of facilities popping up, offering families and people that require adapted cycling a chance to ride together without the worry of having to navigate through traffic.
“He also wants to start competing.”
The family has had to move to a bungalow as Kiernan struggled to climb stairs and he has carers coming in during the day and his parents care for him if he wakes in the night.
Plans are in place in the future for when he wants to leave home and have his own place but he will need 24-hour care.
This determined young man is now studying Art at Selby College.
“We are looking at what he might do next, although he doesn’t like talking about the future. He is aware of his limitations most of the time. He may stay on at Selby College and do an HNC. We just take it a step at a time,” says Marie.
In his spare time he plays a special lightweight trumpet, bass guitar and has just taken up the drums. He enjoyed skiing before the accident and has taken up adapted skiing and has ambitions to travel.
“We are all so proud of Kiernan and what he has achieved in the last few years. He is a perfect example of never giving up on your dreams no matter what,” says Marie. “It is heart-warming to know how much support he has out there, and we want to say a big thank you to everyone who has helped him along the way, especially the NHS Castle Hill Hospital.”
Carolyn Heaton, specialist serious injury lawyer at Irwin Mitchell who represented Kiernan, said: “Kiernan is an amazing young man. He sustained devastating injuries in the accident but has been determined right from the beginning to make the most of all of the rehabilitation he has had, and consequently he has made huge amounts of progress to the point that he can now participate in various adapted sports.
“He has demonstrated incredible commitment, courage and bravery to make the progress he has. With his static bicycle, Kiernan is able to get back into doing something he thoroughly enjoys and it is fantastic to hear that he wants to push himself even further and look into more advanced cycling.”