Jude Aston, 17, has cerebral palsy and chronic pain syndrome in his right leg, a condition which causes excruciating pain when it flares up and has left him as an inpatient at New Cross Hospital in Wolverhampton since August 11, 2021.
So intense is the discomfort he experiences that at one stage he had to be put to sleep just to have his foot washed.
Thankfully, Jude, from Penn, has had no further such episodes since January.
And after spending the last three years mostly bed-bound, the budding sports journalist has gradually returned to a more active life, having lessons with a tutor who comes to the paediatric ward, regular physiotherapy and trips out in his new wheelchair.
An Aston Villa season ticket holder for the last seven years, Jude has had to rely on TV and social media for his footy ‘fix’ as his condition worsened and the Covid-19 pandemic hit.
But after contacting the club, Villa Park officials agreed to move his seat from the most vocal part of the stadium – the Holte End – to the wheelchair users’ section in the corner between the Holte End and the Trinity Road Stand, allowing him to follow his team live again in comfort.
So on Saturday, Jude took the bus to Birmingham with social carer, close friend and fellow Villa fan Harvey Roberts, also 17 and from Penn, and soaked up the atmosphere among the crowd of 41,883 for the opening home game of the season against Everton.
There was even a victory to cheer, after Villa won 2-1 for their first Premier League win of the season.
“It was great to go to a game again after so long away,” said Jude, who was attending his first game since January, 2020.
“Villa made hard work of it and I was still celebrating our second goal when Everton scored near the end which made it a nervous finish, so I was glad we got the right result.
"But it was just good to be back and see so many people I knew from before.”
At the game, Jude – who has interviewed sporting personalities including present and past Villa managers Steven Gerrard and Steve Bruce, plus world heavyweight boxing champion Tyson Fury on his own YouTube channel, Jude’s Journey – met fellow YouTuber Max Stokes, whose channel is called Villa On Tour, as well as local Villa reporter Ashley Preece.
But he had an even bigger thrill on the way home.
“I was on the tram and I got a call from Delicious Orie, the boxer who won Commonwealth Gold for England recently,” said Jude.
“My cousin Nigel trains Delicious and I rang him a few weeks ago asking if there was any chance of an interview. He said sorry for not calling back sooner but he’s only been getting four hours sleep a night because of all the media duties he’s doing at the moment. We’ve agreed to speak again soon to do that interview. So Saturday was a good day.”
Now he’s been able to watch ‘live’ again, Jude plans to become a regular at Villa Park, while continuing to welcome his family and friends to his bedside every day to continue his recovery, including Lewis Hopkins, 17, from Wolverhampton, but an avid supporter of Villa’s arch rivals Birmingham City.
Former Highfields student Jude has also been visiting potential supported living accommodation homes for when he can leave hospital.
But in the meantime, he continues to stay as active as he can, and is indebted to the staff on A21.
“The staff on the ward have been amazing,” he said.
“I love playing table tennis with Luke Musgrove on the table in the play area – this has really kept me going.
“Georgie Varty helped me make a biscoff cheesecake recently – and a special shout out to her, Becky Bird and Sophie Reese. I’m so thankful and grateful to all the staff for what they do for me.”