“You gave Joshua a second chance”
Hiding his dads egg securely out of sight, Joshua smiled to himself as he thought ahead to Easter morning when his dad would search the house for the chocolate he had so cleverly hidden.
It was April 23, 2011 and the day before Easter. Enjoying the school holidays, nine year old Joshua left the egg and went outside to join his step brother playing on his bike.
It was shortly before 2pm that Joshua squirted his brother with a water pistol before climbing onto his pushbike and riding away before his brother could catch him.
What happened next almost ended Joshua’s young life.
Joshua turned to see if his older brother, Brandon, was catching him up and as he looked behind him, Joshua accidently veered his bicycle into the road - and into the path of an approaching car.
Unaware of the horror unfolding, Joshua’s dad, John Birchill, was mowing the lawn at his home just 50 yards away. Reacting quickly Joshua’s ten year old step brother ran to get John, who at first expected to see Joshua with cuts and bruises or at worst a broken arm.
Nothing could prepare him what he was about to face.
Describing what he saw when he ran to the scene of the accident John told Takeoff; “When I got to where Joshua was lying across the tarmac, I couldn’t take in what I was seeing. His legs were bent upwards, both towards his right ear, he was lying on his back and his legs were badly shattered.”
His father, a police officer believed his son was dead at the scene, as he saw blood coming from both his mouth and nose.
He explains; “My priority in those first few minutes was to save my son and do everything I could to keep him alive. I desperately tried to revive him and tried to put him in the recovery position and he began shallow breathing.”
John had asked a witness to call the emergency services and it was only seven minutes before the first paramedic, a rapid response vehicle, was on the scene and just seven minutes later the Air Ambulance arrived.
Joshua remained unconscious until he was being loaded into the air ambulance where he was rushed to Birmingham Children’s Hospital. As he was flown to the hospital the severity of his injuries were assessed.
When Joshua collided with the car, just outside his father house in Stourbridge, he hit the right side of his body against the vehicle, shattering his thigh and shin. The impact of the collision on his bike caused the bike frame to then break his left thigh.
As Joshua flew over the bonnet of the car, he hit his head on the right hand corner of the window screen before falling backwards and hitting his head again on the tarmac.
The car involved wasn’t travelling above the speed limit but hit Joshua at 30mph. The driver stopped immediately at the scene
John was rushed to the hospital in a police car. It was then that the reality of the situation hit him, who until that moment had worked on autopilot to keep his son alive.
He said; “Sitting in the police car, lights flashing for the fifteen mile journey to the hospital, it began to sink in what had happened and I realised that I could lose my little boy.”
When his parents arrived at the hospital, John asked what his sons chances were; “The doctors couldn’t really tell us anything at first, just that they were doing all they could.”
Joshua, the baby of the family, had suffered three fractures to his skull and a trapped optic nerve. Despite his horrific injuries Joshua survived that day, and was placed on a life support machine for the next eight days in intensive care.
He was then put in an induced coma to take the pressure of his little body while doctors gently explained to his parents that they couldn’t predict how long it would take.
Judging his injuries, doctors also believed that they wouldn’t see any significant changes in his condition for the first twelve months.
So what happened next to Joshua is nothing short of a miracle.
On July 4, 73 days after the accident, Joshua came out of his coma and doctors could finally assess his lasting injuries and his parents prepared themselves for a severely disabled son.
But when doctors gave them the astonishing news that Joshua would not suffer from any lasting injuries John said; “Words just don’t describe his fantastic recovery. Joshua laughs and jokes with me, my lad is back. I have Midlands Air Ambulance to thank for that.”
Joshua, a pupil at Fibbersley Park Primary School, Willenhall, remembers nothing of the accident, but can remember up to two days before .His long term memory is not affected and while he is struggling with his short term memory doctors are assured this will only be temporary.
It seems a small temporary price to pay for a child who has three permanent brain injuries and who doctors feared may not walk again. His legs were pinned back into place and only two weeks after coming out of the coma, Joshua has begun to take small steps unaided. He is also starting physiotherapy to help regain his strength.
Joshua can write his name and read as well as he could before the accident and his maths ability is the same too.
John has kept a diary of improvements, at first to keep himself positive but now he has turned it into a diary for josh, should he ask questions about what happened.
“We need to consider what we tell him because he may get flashbacks” explains John.
Joshua is still in Birmingham Children’s Hospital but will soon be moving to a children’s rehabilitation centre in Surrey for six months. Children’s Trust Tadworth Charity is the leading centre in the UK, they provide accommodation for his parents and Joshua will have school sessions during his recovery.
John was already a keen fundraiser for Midlands Air Ambulance Charity and raising money for local children’s hospitals through events with friends.
Although he wishes he had never had to see first hand just how life saving the work they do really is, he said it’s pleasing to know he has helped such a worthy cause in the past and will certainly continue to do so in the future.
John said; “Response time is crucial with brain injuries and if we had made the journey by land ambulance I dread to think what his lasting injuries would have been. Midlands Air Ambulance genuinely saved his life, you gave Joshua a second chance and you gave me my boy back.”
While his friends and family help Joshua to make a full recovery, there is one unanswered question. His dad John said; “Joshua certainly hid my Easter Egg well. We still haven’t found it and we have searched everywhere!”