Factory employees hit by car in Cleckheaton speak of their recovery

Matthew Cawthra and Aaron HaywardMatthew Cawthra and Aaron Hayward
Matthew Cawthra and Aaron Hayward
Two sweet factory employees who suffered brain injuries when a co-worker drove into them and four others have spoken out on how they are determined to progress with their recovery.

Aaron Hayward and Matthew Cawthra left a work Christmas party in Cleckheaton shortly after an altercation between two of their colleagues.

They were walking along Bradford Road with workmates when they were hit by a car which mounted the kerb and was deliberately driven into them by another colleague.

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The pair were taken to hospital, where they were found to have sustained a catalogue of injuries including brain damage.

Following the incident, during the early hours of December 22, 2019, Aaron and Matthew, who work for a confectionery company, instructed expert serious injury lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to help them access the specialist care and therapies they require to maximise their recovery.

They are now speaking out for the first time as part of Action For Brain Injury Week to show others what can be achieved, and what support is available following injury.

Aaron, 29, from Dewsbury, lost consciousness briefly at the scene and was taken to hospital by ambulance, where he was admitted to the major trauma ward.

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He underwent CT scans of his head and chest, and was subsequently diagnosed with a brain injury as well as a fractured spine, skull and facial fractures, cuts and bruising. He also suffered a bruised lung, nerve damage under his right arm and broken teeth.

He was discharged on December 24, 2019.

Prior to the incident, Aaron played five-a-side football, and rugby occasionally. He often attended Huddersfield Town FC home games and enjoyed online gaming.

Since his injuries, his social life has become restricted. He no longer plays football or rugby, and complains of fatigue and discomfort when gaming.

He also suffers with dizziness, impaired concentration and memory, difficulties with sleeping and with eating due to his damaged teeth and previously had issues with his vision.

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In October 2020, Aaron’s fatigue led to him reducing his working hours. He returned to full time in April 2021 with help from his employer.

Five months later, he was given a promotion to the position of supervisor which is less physically demanding.

Through his legal team, Aaron has had access to various therapies including physiotherapy and neuropsychology. He also had privately funded eye surgery to correct his vision problems and has ongoing dental treatment.

He said: “I remember the incident at the party where some of the lads had a falling out. We decided to leave and go somewhere different.

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"The last thing I remember is walking down the road. The next thing I remember is being in hospital.

"My mum and my sister came to visit me the next day, but I don’t remember that. I was still confused and light-headed at that time.

“To then find out it was one of our workmates that hit us was horrific and incredibly difficult to believe.

"It left me with so many questions as to how he could do such a terrible thing and cause so much hurt, particularly to people he knew and worked with every day.

“Before the incident, I enjoyed playing sports and gaming.

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"I haven’t gone back to rugby or football, as I am worried about getting knocks to my head or neck and about the social side of it. I am still into gaming, but I can’t do it as much due to pain and tiredness.

"I even had to drop some hours at work for a while as I was finding the fatigue was too much to bear at times.

“Thankfully, I’ve had such great support from everyone and I’m so lucky to be alive.

"I always said I was determined not let my injuries set me back in life, and my promotion at work is a sign of what I’m capable of achieving despite what I’ve been through.

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“I hope that by sharing my story, I can show others that it’s still possible to live your life following a brain injury and that there’s help out there.”

Matthew, 45, from Cleckheaton, was taken to hospital by ambulance following the incident, where he was ventilated and put in an induced coma.

He was subsequently found to have a severe brain injury, as well as multiple skull fractures, a spinal fracture, cuts, bleeding and soft tissue injuries.

On December 24, 2019, Matthew underwent surgery to fuse the spinal fracture. On January 10, 2020, he was moved to a rehabilitation ward, and two months later he was transferred to a brain injury rehabilitation trust facility in Garforth, Leeds.

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Matthew was discharged from the unit on June 2, 2020 into the care of his mum Christine and stepdad Arthur.

In the two years since then, he has suffered from neck pain, headaches, speech and memory impairment, and difficulty swallowing. He also has anxiety.

He returned to work in January 2021, but has reduced his hours to four days a week due to fatigue.

As part of his recovery, his legal team secured funding for his rehabilitation which includes occupational therapy, neuropsychology, occupational therapy, physiotherapy and personal training.

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In September 2020, he also began a successful independent living trial when he moved back to his own flat.

Matthew said: “I remember very little of the day of the incident. I can recall setting off to the Christmas party, but the next thing I remember is coming round in hospital and people telling me what had happened.

"They said I had been run over deliberately by a guy I knew from work, but I struggled to accept it at first.

“During my time at the rehabilitation facility, I was still really confused but I didn’t think there was anything wrong with me other than my neck injury.

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"As time went on, I came to realise I had a brain injury and how it affects me.

“The main things that affect me are my memory and the fatigue, which is why I’ve had to reduce my hours at work.

“Despite this, I feel like I’ve come so far since what happened.

"Thankfully, I have a good family and friends, and we tend to have a laugh about me forgetting things or falling asleep during the football.

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"I know I’m lucky to be alive, and I’m so grateful for all the support and rehabilitation I’ve had.

"I want others to know that there is help available.”

David King, an associate solicitor and APIL-accredited brain injury specialist at Irwin Mitchell, who is representing Aaron, said: “This was a truly dreadful incident where Aaron and Matthew both sustained serious injuries, and it’s only through good fortune that nobody was killed.

“It has been a pleasure to get to know Aaron and Matthew over the past two years. They are stoical and tenacious individuals who approach life in a positive way, despite the challenges they face.

“Although they each still have their difficulties, the way in which they have embraced rehabilitation has helped them to make great strides in their recovery.

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"We’ll continue to support them to ensure they can access the ongoing rehabilitation and support they require.”

Driver of the car, fellow sweet factory worker Andrew Wrigglesworth, from Birstall, was charged with six counts of attempted murder and jailed for 30 years.

Action for Brain Injury Week runs from May 16-22 and is supported by the charity Headway. This year’s campaign is entitled The Hidden Me, and aims to raise awareness of often misunderstood symptoms of brain injury.

For more information, visit www.headway.org.uk