AVM: Zac

At the age of 16, Zac acquired a brain injury after a ruptured Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM). Now aged 20, Zac wants to inspire other children and young people who find themselves in a similar situation.

Zac smiling at the camera

Zac aged 16 at The Children’s Trust.

Zac shares his story in his own words...

Firstly, I would like to thank The Children’s Trust for giving me the opportunity to share my story.

My name is Zac and I am 20 years old. 

Growing up I was a healthy and very active kid. Throughout my teenage years I spent most of my time racing and fixing my car or playing football for my local team and the Chelsea FC Foundation squad, both of which I am very proud of. 

My brain injury

On 4 February 2019, I suffered a ruptured Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM). 

This caused a bleed on my brain and the pressure resulted in a stroke to my cerebellum, the part of your brain that controls balance and movement. 

At the time this happened I was packing my bags to fly to New Zealand to attend my uncle's wedding. Suddenly my right leg started to shake uncontrollably. I lost consciousness. Fortunately, my Mum was with me at the time. Screaming out for help in our close, she managed to alert two paramedics and a retired doctor who rushed to my aid. I was taken by ambulance that must’ve been driven by Lewis Hamilton to St George’s Hospital. They gave me a 1% chance of survival, so times were pretty hard for me! I had a seven and a half-hour craniotomy to remove the ruptured AVM.

Zac in a coma

After four weeks of being in a coma I came around, and instead of being in New Zealand, I found myself in a hospital bed. I had no memory of what had happened. I was very confused. I couldn’t talk, eat or communicate in any way. I could barely move. I stayed at St George’s Hospital for a few more weeks where I made some small steps in my recovery.

Starting the road to recovery

There was a real variety of emotions, I felt anxious, scared and confused.

I was then transferred by ambulance to The Children’s Trust. There was a real variety of emotions, I felt anxious, scared and confused. At first, I didn’t understand what I was doing there, I had no clue what had happened or the damage that had been caused by the brain injury.

When I first arrived, I needed round the clock care from multiple staff members. I was unable to do anything for myself. My only way of getting around was by wheelchair or hoist. It took an army of people just to get me through the day.

Zac being lifted in a hoist

It was at this stage that the real work started. I did occupational therapy, speech and language therapy and physiotherapy. My favourite session was aquatic therapy because I could move more freely without the worry of falling over. All of these combined were essential steps in my road to recovery. 

Zac playing tennis is a physiotherapy session

As the weeks went by, I gained more consciousness of my surroundings. My memory was not great, I would often forget the activities I had done during the day, making the whole process even more challenging.

A challenge was something that made me thrive at any activity I participated in, especially highly difficult ones. Being a sportsman was vital to the speed of my recovery. 

This characteristic has helped me throughout my ongoing rehabilitation as well. It wasn’t easy by any means; I had my highs and lows but if you stick at something by investing your time and energy then you will eventually see the reward.

Getting out and about

Throughout my time at The Children’s Trust, the different members of the team helped me to develop the skills I would need later on in my life.

Some of my best memories of my time at The Children’s Trust were the trips we went on. Laser Quest, the London Eye and fruit picking were just some of the highlights. They were a huge part of making my rehabilitation enjoyable and getting to see different places was invaluable.

Zac fruit picking with the support of his OT

With the help of the amazing team at The Children’s Trust, I relearned those skills that I had lost. The work carried out by The Children’s Trust is remarkable. I am just one of the many products of their incredible work. 

Moving forward

The staff at The Children’s Trust are truly special. They did everything they could for me, and I will forever be grateful to every person that helped me throughout my time there.

I left there in the August of 2019 after just over 4 months of residential rehabilitation. I was just able to stand to ring the bell to signify the end of my time there. When I left The Children’s Trust I was still in a wheelchair but was well on the way to achieving my recovery goals.

Zac ringing the 'going home' bell

After leaving The Children’s Trust, I went back to school and passed all my GCSE’s.

I passed my Level 2 diploma in Engineering and Manufacturing Operations and am currently in my second year of a T Level qualification in the same field. I received the ‘star of the year’ award for Engineering in 2022 at Crawley College.

I have taken part in work experience for the Red Bull Racing F1 team in Milton Keynes and am currently on a work placement at Global Technologies Racing, manufacturing composite materials for top level race teams all over the world.

Zac standing in front of race cars

I passed my driving test last September and have gained a lot more freedom and independence.

I am where I am today as a result of the hard work and effort of all of the staff at The Children’s Trust. I hope that my story will inspire other kids going through similar circumstances as I know how difficult the journey can be.