A TEENAGER almost died after he was struck on the head by a football during a kickabout with friends.
Doctors diagnosed concussion a week after the freak accident and sent Owen Mathieson away with painkillers.
But the 14-year-old had suffered bleeding on the brain and the following day had to be rushed to hospital to save his life. Doctors removed part of his skull during the treatment and secured it back in place with titanium screws.
Owen, from Wick, Caithness, suffered paralysis down one side of his body and lost his speech.
He spent eight weeks recovering in hospital following the incident in mid-July and even now can only go to school part time because of the fatigue he continues to suffer.
Owen Mathieson was playing as goalkeeper during the kickabout at a local park. He went to save a goal and was hit very hard on the forehead by the ball.
He was left with a swelling above his eye as well as a high temperature, headaches and sensitivity to light.
After a week, his mother, Maria, 42, took him to the local hospital where the concussion diagnosis was given and painkillers prescribed.
The following day, after his symptoms worsened, medics discovered a life-threatening bleed between his skull and brain – known as a intracranial subdural haematoma.
He was airlifted to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary before getting taken to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh where he began losing his speech and was left paralysed down his right hand side.
Maria said: “It was a freak accident really which you would never think would have resulted in the way it did.”
But she is critical of doctors for not investigating his head injury more thoroughly at the start.
She said: “If doctors had just taken bloods when we first took him in, they would have seen something was not right.
“I would say to any parent with concerns to fight to make sure checks are done straight away as Owen has been very lucky.
“If we had left him another day he might not be here today or could have suffered brain damage.”
Maria added: “One of the doctors I spoke to in Edinburgh said he could not believe we had no paediatrician in Caithness. I feel very strongly that we should.”
Doctors told Maria that her son could die during an emergency operation which was needed to flush out the blood from Owen’s brain.
After the major operation Owen was given 59 staples in his head and began to regain his speech his speech again.
He then had to see a physiotherapist to help with movement in his right arm and leg.
During a small operation to clear Owen’s sinuses of infection, doctors also discovered the infection had spread to his brain.
He then had to spend five weeks recovering at the Sick Kids and another three weeks in Raigmore Hospital until the infection had cleared.
Owen also developed pancreatitis and a severe skin rash due to the strong antibiotics he was prescribed through a hickman line inserted in his chest.
He now has titanium screws fixed to hold his skill in place and has been advised to not play football for at least six months.
“Following his time at the hospitals, he is doing really well now and has returned back to school part time but gets fatigued and tired quickly,” said Maria.
“He plays football for his local team and is unable to play for a while so really misses it.
“We have to go back to the hospital for a check up next month so hopefully he gets the all clear then.”
A spokeswoman for NHS Highland said: “We are sorry that Mrs Mathieson has concerns about the service she would expect from NHS Highland.
“Raigmore Hospital [in Inverness] is the only hospital that has a paediatric unit. This is not a new arrangement and not something that will be changing.
“There is not an on-site paediatrics service in Caithness as we simply could not sustain this due to low volume for skills maintenance.
“However staff do have access to pediatric advice at all times and the rural practitioners who work in Caithness General do have enhanced paediatric skills.”
Maria’s friend Anne Foubister has since set up a Just Giving page in order to raise £1,000 to help Owen’s family with travelling costs.
Anne wrote online: “We have set up this crowd funding page in support of our friend and colleague Maria Mathieson and her son Owen who spent 10 weeks in Edinburgh’s Sick Childrens Hospital .
“We would love to raise some money to help Maria, Owen and their family cover some of the costs incurred whilst being away for such a long period of time.”
Last year brain injury experts called for an independent review to be held into football’s treatment of on-field head injuries.
At the time Luke Griggs, spokesman for brain injury charity Headway, said: “We would like to see an independent review of the way in which professional football in this country is implementing its own concussion protocols in order to reduce the risk to not just professional athletes, but also to youngsters and amateurs who do not have doctors on the side of the pitch to provide medical support and advice.”
Earlier this year research showed that repeated headers during a footballers professional career may be linked to long-term brain damage.
Former England and West Brom striker Jeff Astle died aged 59 suffering from early onset dementia.
An inquest into his death in 2002 found that repeatedly heading heavy leather footballs had contributed to trauma to his brain.
Researchers from University College London and Cardiff University examined the brains of five people who had been professional footballers and one who had been a committed amateur throughout his life.
While performing post mortem examinations, scientists found signs of brain injury called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in four cases.
CTE has been linked to memory loss, depression and dementia.
To donate, please visit: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/anne-foubister