South Shields 'miracle kid' defied the odds after suffering a massive bleed on the brain

A South Shields teenager who suffered a massive bleed on the brain defied the odds after being told he might never be able to walk or talk again.

Tuesday, 31st December 2019, 9:01 am
Conner Weatherburn (left) with his dad Mark.

Conner Weatherburn went to bed one night feeling unwell, thinking he had a virus.

The 17-year-old woke up later with an agonising headache, and phoned his parents – only managing to utter the words “please help me mam” before the phone went dead.

Mark Weatherburn and Emma Urwin rushed back to their Simonside home to find their son collapsed at the top of the stairs.

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Conner (left) on holiday with his brother Jayden, 12 after his recovery.

Doctors initially could not see what was behind the symptoms, thinking he may be drunk or had taken an overdose.

Then a brain scan revealed that he had suffered a massive bleed on the brain, caused by a condition called arteriovenous malformation (AVM).

He is only the second youngest person they know of to have experienced it.

As Conner was rushed to the RVI in Newcastle and taken into surgery, Mark and Emma were told to prepare for the worst.

Conner in hospital with his brother Jayden.

“He was in there for hours, it was absolutely horrific, we were just praying,” said Emma, 36, at the family’s Simonside Hall home, of that day in January 2017.

“We didn’t know if he would be able to walk, talk or if he was going to be completely brain damaged.”

“You wouldn't wish it on anyone,” added Mark, 37.

Doctors initially warned that he was paralysed down the right hand side of his body and that he wasn’t responding to tests, but despite the odds being stacked against him, Conner began to show signs of progress within a few days.

Conner during his recovery at the RVI in Newcastle where he stayed from January-May 2017.

Within weeks he had lifted himself up on the bed and was starting to communicate again. He was home in time for his younger brother Jayden’s birthday in May 2017.

“He kept surprising us throughout his recovery,” said Mark.

“Nobody could believe it,” added Emma.

“The doctors were calling him a miracle kid.”

Conner's scar following his surgery in January 2017.

Two years on Conner looks like any other 19-year-old, but he’s still facing daily battles. He lost his right field of vision and has weakness in his right side, as well suffering from aphasia – a condition affecting speech – and short-term memory loss.

He is unable to drive and struggles with his mental health, and his family say there is a lack of support for those in his position.

Momentum Skills, in Newcastle, a charity for those living with acquired brain injuries, provided a “lifeline” for him until it was forced to close recently due to a lack of funding.

“Now I couldn’t imagine my old life and being to do the things I used to do,” said Conner, who still hopes to find a job doing something he loves.

“But going through the bad stuff makes you appreciate life, I am happy I’m still here and able to do most things.”

A relative of the family, author Dave Urwin, was so inspired by Conner’s determination he has written a book about it.

Where Hope Springs, which was published earlier this year, tells Conner’s experience interspersed with other stories of hope, including a firefighter who tackled the Grenfell Tower blaze.

Conner said: “I wanted to get everything down. I still feel like I’m going to wake up one day and it’s all going to be a dream.”

“You don’t think anything like this is going to happen to you,” said Mark.

“We just take every day as it comes and try and stay positive.”

Emma added: “We found strength from each other. It’s brought us really close and made us appreciate what we’ve got.”

Where Hope Springs is available on Amazon and from