TWO years ago, almost to the day, a bright young South Yorkshire teenager slipped on ice and banged his head.
Jack Mitchell was rushed to hospital with a massive blood clot on his brain - and doctors thought he wouldn’t survive.
But now, after a series of operations and more than a year in rehab, 18-year-old Jack is looking forward to a bright future.
Still confined to a wheelchair, and still experiencing trouble with his speech, Jack is back at college and determined one day he will walk again.
And, after a horrendous two years, he is engaged to be married to girlfriend Paige Guest.
His mum Lynne Ryan told The Star: “Jack has done better, and come further, than anyone ever thought he would.
“He has been written off a few times.
“Our whole lives have changed - but two years down the line we are feeling much more positive.”
Jack, from Royston, Barnsley, had just left The Klondyke pub in Royston - where he had a part-time job collecting glasses - and was heading out with friends when he slipped on an icy path two years ago yesterday, on January 2, 2010.
Lynne, 43, a social worker for the NSPCC in Sheffield, said: “He just slipped on ice and banged his head.
“Luckily some police saw him fall. They put him in the recovery position and called an ambulance.”
Jack was rushed to accident and emergency in Barnsley but soon started to deteriorate.
He was transferred to the specialist neurological centre at Sheffield’s Royal Hallamshire Hospital, where surgeons realised he had a huge blood clot on his brain.
Lynne said: “The surgeons on that first day took us into a room to look at the scan. The clot was huge. It took up most of his head.
“They told us it was a life or death situation - and they could not give us any reassurances that he would survive, or if his life would be the same again.”
The pressure in Jack’s head was rising rapidly, so surgeons removed part of his skull and the clot.
Jack, by then in a coma, spent two weeks in the Hallamshire, before being transferred to Barnsley intensive care unit where he slowly woke up.
“It was so gradual,” Lynne said. “First there was eye blinking, then he would put his thumbs up. After five weeks in Barnsley he was out of his coma but he was paralysed and had no speech.”
Jack spent a year at the Keresforth Centre rehabilitation and respite unit, before he finally came home to Royston a year ago, where he lives with Lynne, dad Steve Mitchell, 39, and little sister Jasmine, eight.
Earlier this year the NHS stopped paying for his physiotherapy, because they said he would not improve further.
But Jack was determined he would one day walk again, and his family started a fundraising drive to pay for private physiotherapy.
Lynne said: “The physio he is seeing now says he will walk. He is so determined. We have always thought one day he will be back on his feet.”
Now Jack is back at Barnsley College, where he is studying A Levels in geography, sociology and citizenship.
Jack said: “I’m enjoying being back at college. My friends have been really supportive. And I am really looking forward to getting married.”
Since the accident Lynne and Steve have been unstinting supporters of Neurocare, the Sheffield charity which funded the high-end equipment that saved his life.
“It’s amazing what doctors can do,” Lynne said. “They are so good.”
Every March the couple hold ‘Jack’s Bash’ - a band night to raise money for the charity, and they have also raised thousands of pounds through taking part in running events and other sponsored challenges.
n PAIGE Guest has stuck by Jack Mitchell’s side through thick and thin.
The teenager from Cundy Cross first got together with Jack on Bonfire Night in 2009.
The young couple, then both 16, went out for a few weeks before splitting up - but on the night of Jack’s accident they had just got back together again.
Jack’s mum Lynne said: “They were a little bit on and off, but on that night he was so happy.
“He said to me, ‘Hey mum, me and Paige are back together’.
“That night, after the accident, I spoke to her for the first time. We had never met before but I called her. The hospital wouldn’t let her visit - but once he was in rehab she visited him every day.
“She has been an absolute star. And now they are planning a future together.”
Jack and Paige, who celebrated her 18th birthday on Christmas Day, are planning to marry in 2013.
Paige said: “We are really looking forward to a better year in 2012, to moving on.
“It’s been very hard - we have been through a lot - but Jack has got through it with his determination and stubbornness.
“He has proved so many people wrong.”
She added: “I always hoped he would be alright. I just couldn’t leave him.”
And Lynne said: “Paige has been so good for him. They have survived this, so I’m sure they can survive anything.”