Grateful teacher Sean Dolan has thanked parents, fellow staff and trust colleagues for helping him raise three times his original target for his marathon effort to help the hospital that saved his life.
Sean, 32, who teaches at St Joseph’s Catholic Primary in Marton, Road, Middlesbrough, aimed to raise £500 by running along the route the ambulance took him from Billingham to Stockton’s North Tees Hospital after a horrific accident seven years ago.
But generous well-wishers have so far donated more than £1,500, which will go to support the neurology and intensive care wards at James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough.
Sean was playing football with friends in Billingham when he collided with a wall and fell to the floor, knocking him out instantly and leaving him with a fractured skull.
He spent six days in a coma and his parents were warned he could die. However, he made a full recovery and has since raised well over £12,000 for the hospital.
Sean is now spending his half-term break resting after completing his gruelling run in four hours and seven minutes.
“I ran 20 miles a couple of times in training thinking that would prepare me for it, but those last six miles were the longest hours of my life,” he said.
“The main thing I asked for was no rain and I got that, it was windy along the Tees and over Newport Bridge but that beats rain!
“I’m so thankful to all the parents and staff from my school and across the trust who have donated and sent well wishes.”
Sean had just completed his first half term as a teacher when the accident happened, but doctors said he might never work again. However, he has battled back bravely and is now a popular member of the St Joseph’s staff.
“I have no memory of the accident,” he says. “I was out cold and the ambulance initially took me to North Tees but they knew I had to go straight to James Cook’s specialist neurology department.
“While I was there I had a seizure and was put in an induced coma to relieve the pressure on my brain.
“My parents were warned I could lose the use of my left side or wake up with a changed personality and that they should also prepare for the worst possible news.”
Surgeons removed about a third of his skull as they operated to save his life. He was finally brought round and began a long rehabilitation process that included occupational therapy, speech and language and physiotherapy.
After two months in hospital he was allowed home for Christmas but he was back in early January to have a titanium plate fitted.
“I had to adapt some areas of my life during recovery but the rehab James Cook gave me ensured there was no long-lasting impact,” says Sean, who still lives in Billingham.
“I’m more of an emotional person now and I’m not as confident as I once was. I was bed-ridden for so long that I lost a lot of muscle and put on weight, but I’m fitter now than I’ve ever been.”
Sean says the hospital now needs his help more than ever and he is determined to do his bit to support our NHS heroes.
“I wanted to do a bit extra this year because of Covid,” he says. “We’ve had staff in the trust who have been in intensive care at James Cook and the doctors and nurses have been pushed further than ever.
“I owe my life to them. I don’t remember being in intensive care, but my family speak so highly of what they did for me.”
Sean’s efforts have included a 24-hour football match in the gym where the accident happened, wearing a Petr Cech-style helmet to protect his head, and he also runs the Great North Run every year.
He previously worked for MFC Foundation, spending time in Trinity Catholic College and getting to know children in many of the trust’s primary schools across Teesside and North Yorkshire.
“During my recovery I was told to prepare for a life where I might not be able to work again but I finally got back to teaching a couple of years ago. I love it at St Joseph’s Primary School. It’s a very special school and I couldn’t be happier here.”
St Joseph’s headteacher Liz King said everyone at the school is proud of Sean’s achievement.
“Though I did not know him at the time of his accident, I do know that it has taken him a great deal of resilience and dedication to not only overcome his injuries but also return to teaching,” she said.
“Since he joined the staff of St Joseph’s he has worked tirelessly to raise awareness of mental health issues and it is no surprise that he has yet again chosen to raise money to support the charities that he is so passionate about. We are all incredibly proud of him.”
Suzi Campbell, from South Tees Hospitals Charity, added: “I first met Sean in 2014 and every year since then he has supported the departments that helped him.
“For as long as I can remember Sean has said this is his last year running the GNR for us as he doesn’t think people will still be willing to give, and every year he exceeds his fundraising target, which is testament to his ambition and drive to help those who helped him.
“He’s been on an incredible journey and we can’t thank him enough for the support he’s shown us over the years.”