By Luke Kenton
After being involved in a horrific accident, this British athlete was warned by doctors that he may never walk again – but after a year of determined perseverance he defeated the odds and taught himself to not only walk but RUN once more.
In December 2017, rising star Tom Holden, a then 20-year-old student of Loughborough University, was crowned a champion in his first competitive race for England.
Six-months later, however, he found himself in a medically-induced coma, where his family were told he may not survive – and if he did, he was ‘incredibly unlikely’ to be able to walk, let alone run, again.
Cycling home from the library, on May 31, 2017, just two days before his exams, Tom’s next memory wouldn’t come for another 30 days, when he awoke in a hospital bed in Nottingham, where he was told he’d been involved in a serious road collision.
Remembering nothing of the accident, the economics student was totally bedbound as a result of the severe brain injuries suffered, causing a weakness to the right-side of his body, and difficulties with speech, memory and the processing of basic information.
With his initial brain scans leaving doctors to conclude he was unlikely to ever walk again, Tom was determined to overcome the odds and dedicated the next 12 months to intensive therapy in order to get himself back doing what he loves best: running.
Bound to a wheelchair at first, Tom took his first unsupported steps on August 21, and by November he had ran his first post-accident 200m, registering a time of two minutes and five seconds.
Now, although the Olympic hopeful admits there’s still a long way to go to reach his former performance levels, a 200m running time of 36 seconds in June has left him even more determined than ever to pursue his dream of being a competitive runner.
Now 21, Tom, from South London, said: “I had been unconscious for a month and woke with a snapped jaw and a huge brain injury.
“The injuries to the brain were widespread and quite deep.
“At first, I didn’t realise how serious of a brain injury I had – it didn’t occur to me that I may never run again until September.
“It was a tough thing to realise, but I soon figured the odds were stacked against me to even survive the accident, so why not try to beat them again?
“I didn’t say my first words till July 15, and I was finally transferred from Nottingham Hospital to St. George’s, in London, two days later.
“I’m very determined and will give everything I have to get back to where I was.”
Cycling home at night with two of his friends in May 2017, Tom collided with a van not far from his university’s campus, leaving him unconscious in the road.
Having absolutely no recollection of the accident ever happening, Tom admits it felt like the “rug had been ripped” from under him when he awoke in hospital to find he was unable to move much of his body.
However, unrelenting in his determination to return to the running tracks, Tom continues to go from strength to strength, and this time next year he hopes to running at a professional standard.
Tom said: “I don’t remember the accident at all, but I know the driver stopped to help out.
“The first few days they doubted if I’d even survive, let alone walk.
“I couldn’t even sit up in bed to start with, so literally everything had be ripped out from under me.
“Every time I’m able to do something that I use to be able to do automatically, it feels like a victory – I take energy from it and feed off of it.
“Running used to come naturally to me but now it doesn’t, so I’m fighting to get that back.
“I won’t give up till I’ve got that back.
“Walking again, it felt great to be back on my feet, but it wasn’t enough to just be walking.
“My dream is to run competitively again and get back to the level I was at before.
“However, I know there’s a long road ahead, if that’s going to be the case.
“I do recognise I’ve come incredibly far from where I started, and I also recognise it’s only been possible because of the amazing support I’ve received from the hospital staff, family, friends, my university and many others.
“I hope that other people facing difficulties and barriers of any kind can draw strength from my story and use it as an inspiration.
“This time next year I will have graduated university and I hope I’ll be running back at my best.
“However, a brain injury is unpredictable and nobody can tell you how far you’ll go – it’s just a case of one step at a time.”