A mum refused to turn off her son’s life support machine when she was told he wouldn’t survive after a horror crash on his 19th birthday and the next day he started blinking as he began to battle back to life.
Lee Baxter was on his way to a birthday party when his car was hit by speeding Audi driver Kevin Bernard at 86mph, nearly three times the 30mph limit on Southport Road, Bootle, reports the Liverpool Echo.
Lee was left with severe brain injuries and fought for his life in a coma but doctors feared he wouldn’t survive because he wasn’t showing any signs of awareness.
Yet his mum Dawn wouldn’t give up hope and she has spent the last three years helping him rebuild his life after he made a remarkable recovery.
He has made remarkable progress on an extremely difficult personal journey and he still has someway to go.
Bernard, 43, of Aigburth, denied causing serious injury by dangerous driving in the horrific crash, at around 11.35pm, on June 16, 2018.
He has been on the run since Christmas and after skipping a trial when he was found guilty in May, the fugitive was yesterday sentenced in his absence to six years in prison at Liverpool Crown Court.
Dawn had a birthday cake and balloons ready for Lee when she received a call to say he had been taken to hospital.
Because of his brain injury, he was transferred from Aintree hospital to The Walton Centre, where he was put on life support.
He was given a chest drain because of a punctured lung and broken ribs, then returned to Fazakerley, where he stayed for a month.
In an initial victim statement, Dawn said: “During this time I was told he had contracted a lung infection and part of the brain that had been damaged, the cerebellum, it’s job is to keep blood pressure at a certain rhythm, was going haywire.
“I was told at this point I would lose my son and if he survived he would be mentally and physically disabled.”
Graham Pickavance, prosecuting, who read out the statement, commented: “She was advised by the consultants to turn the life support machine off. She refused and apparently the next day there was some response from him.”
It’s understood Lee blinked from his hospital bed which showed doctors he was fighting for his life.
Dawn said: “He fought it and did survive. He woke up and he couldn’t do anything.
“He had to learn how to breathe, talk, walk, eat… the list is endless. He has struggled every step of the way and to this day is still fighting.
“I travelled to and from the hospital every day. It broke my heart to see him like this because I could see the pain in his eyes.”
Lee, whose pelvis and hips were broken, had to learn to stand and a tracheostomy tube into his throat was then removed.
Dawn said: “That was the first time I heard my son say ‘mum’ in three months. I was so happy.”
While recovering at The Walton Centre’s Lipton Ward he began using a wheelchair, when she said “his personality shone through”.
At the centre’s Sid Watkins Building he was given a PEG feeding tube for his stomach because he had lost five stone in weight.
Dawn said he was initially able to come home at weekends, where they made him a new bedroom in a downstairs backroom.
However, he was left with slurred speech as a result of multiple strokes, nerve pain in the left side of his body, issues with balance, and also suffered from double vision.
She said Lee felt down most of the time, sitting playing his PlayStation when he should be out, which was “very painful” to watch, but she tried to stay upbeat for him.
Dawn said: “Lee now takes medication he has to take for the pain. He hates taking them as they make him feel like a zombie.”
In an updated statement made in May, the mum said her son was “still constantly in pain” and reluctantly taking pain relief “just to try to make it bearable”, while undergoing a variety of physical, neurological, speech and language therapy.
The mum said: “Mentally, Lee is suffering. His confidence has gone. Before the crash Lee was always the class clown, making everyone laugh all the time.
“That no longer happens. He actively shies away from being in groups now. He blames this on his voice saying he doesn’t feel he can participate in conversation.
“He just sits quietly, which is not Lee. I often find him looking at photographs of himself from before the crash and says to me ‘why has this happened to me? I have to spend the rest of my life like this’.
Dawn explained how when not receiving treatment her son stays in his bedroom in the dark and is very hard to motivate, because his concentration has gone and he needs to be told to do basic tasks, like brushing his teeth.
She said: “Lee was always affectionate, but now he isn’t. For me, it is like the crash has taken my son away because he has no feelings towards me. He is cold. It is Lee’s body, but it is not Lee.
“It is horrible to see what has happened to Lee. Before the crash Lee had a job lined up with Kelly Communications. It was a job for life.
“Starting off on £24,000 per year, he had plans to move out and get a place with his long term girlfriend. Instead he’s been left with these horrific injuries and his girlfriend couldn’t cope with Lee’s coldness and changes to his personality.”
Worryingly, she said he still has problems with his vision and is set for an operation but they have been warned he may lose his sight.
Dawn said he was also awaiting a new MRI scan because of brain problems and continues to battle issues with coordination.
She said: “Lockdown has set him back so much he is nearly back to being how he was when he came home from hospital, as treatments stopped during Covid.”