Newsbeat

Fight warning from mum after teen son's brain damage

Alysa and Cameron Shirley Image copyright Alysa Shirley

Early in the morning on 13 December 2018, Alysa Shirley had a phone call from St Mary's Hospital on the Isle Of Wight.

Her 17-year-old son Cameron had been brought in after being involved in a fight with another teenager.

More than two months later, Cam is still unable to communicate.

"He was on life-support and his face was pretty battered," Alysa tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

"He was really cold to the touch. I remember that much.

"When I gave him a kiss it was almost like his body was just not there, it was so cold."

The previous night, Alysa had shared a Chinese with her son.

After eating, he told her he was going to play video games in his room, but left the house instead to meet a friend.

In the early hours of the next morning he was the victim of a serious assault, according to a Hampshire Police report.

Image copyright Alysa Shirley
Image caption Cameron was "loyal, he valued his friendships, adored his girlfriend and loved his family" his mum says

Doctors believe he was punched in the head several times. The impact was enough to cause major damage to his brain.

After a four-hour operation, he was placed in a medically-induced coma for three weeks.

An 18-year-old man from Cowes was arrested on suspicion of causing grievous bodily harm.

He was later released from custody but remains under investigation, Hampshire police tell Newsbeat.

'He can't move his limbs, he can't speak'

"We haven't been able to communicate with Cameron at all since this happened," says Alysa.

"All he does is open his eyes and look at us. He can't move any limbs at all, he can't speak, he can't do anything for himself.

"He just lies in the bed and watches you. That's all we have with him at the minute."

Image copyright Kameron Wheeler
Image caption "We wouldn't do anything without each other and he was someone I could always trust with anything," says Cam's best friend Kameron

Cam's best friend has the same name as him. Kameron Wheeler says since the fight in December he feels like he's "missing a piece" of himself.

"It's heartbreaking to be honest. It's really hard," the 19-year-old tells Newsbeat.

"He's my best mate. I've never had someone like him and it's just really hard to get it to sink in.

"Then, when I visited him - looking at him like that - I just wanted to break down."

Kameron says he and Cam used to see each other every day, but they weren't together the night Cam was injured.

'It only takes one punch to ruin someone's life'

After what happened to his best friend, Kameron says it's made him think twice about how he'd respond if he found himself in a confrontation.

"You never know what could happen and all it takes is one punch to physically ruin someone's life," he says.

Image copyright Alysa Shirley
Image caption Cameron's mum posted this picture and caption on social media

The impact on Cameron's head was so severe, it moved his brain inside his skull and put pressure on the main artery which supplies blood, resulting in oxygen deprivation and irreparable brain damage.

Doctors are unable to tell Alysa if Cam will get better or not, but she hopes his age could help him achieve some degree of recovery.

"You cannot bring the brain back to life once it's died," she says.

"We just have to hope his brain can re-path itself and learn to do things by finding other pathways round.

"But that ultimately comes down to Cameron."

'Take five seconds to think before you throw that punch'

Since the incident, Alysa has focused her grief by starting Cam's Army, a Facebook page that she hopes can spread a message to young people about the effect their violent acts can have.

"Cameron may have sustained several hits, but it only takes one to do this damage," says Alysa.

"We want to educate children to just take five seconds to think before they throw that punch, and for those that are on the receiving end, just to walk away."

Image copyright Alysa Shirley
Image caption Cameron's siblings were only able to see him in hospital for the first time in February

Alysa says she is already in talks with schools across the UK about telling Cameron's story and the impact that violence can have, not just on the victim, but on their family as well.

"When you throw that punch you do it to create harm, to create hurt on that other person.

"Cameron is 17 years old and will have to be cared for, for the rest of his life."

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