Published: 00:01, 16 October 2017
Plunged into darkness after being blinded in a bullying attack in January, 13-year-old Nicholas Smith has spent the year battling with depression but is now bouncing back.
This week his dad Michael spoke of his pride after his son won a Young Person of the Year Award at the annual Kent Scouts County Awards, and hopes further successes lie ahead.
But he also warned other children of the potential dangers of such attacks and particularly of the possible effects of head injuries.
Mr Smith, of Brook Road, Gravesend, said the assault happened on January 6 when a boy approached Nicholas in the changing rooms in Saint George’s School, Gravesend, before a PE class, and claimed Nicholas was using his locker.
“He hit him on the back of the head several times and my son went unconscious.”
After regaining consciousness Nicholas pressed ahead with PE, but passed out again while doing a forward roll.
“The teacher decided to phone me and to come and pick him up,” added Mr Smith. “I took him straight to hospital. They said it was concussion and he had MRI scans.
“He’s been assessed and is registered blind. His vision was perfect before but he lost his vision instantly – he’s had partial vision for nine months. He can’t see faces and he can’t read.
“They’ve pronounced him as profoundly blind. We didn’t know that he couldn’t see our faces – he’s forgotten what I look like.”
"Everyone knew him as a smiler – he's a brilliant child. We've only just started to get that back" - Nicholas Smith's dad, Michael
Mr Smith, who suffers from chronic kidney disease and is registered disabled, says his son has helped to look after him as a young carer and that him going blind has had a massive impact on the whole family.
He hopes better things are to come, and recent signs show Nicholas is coming to terms with his condition, winning awards and taking part in a recent Scout trip to the Peak District.
“It’s affected me and my wife,” Mr Smith said. “We can’t really talk about it without crying. He always wanted to be a vet. Now we don’t know if he’ll be able to even drive. For a long time he was crying his eyes out and he was miserable. Everyone knew him as a smiler – he’s a brilliant child. We’ve only just started to get that back.”
He added: “His grades have dropped quite drastically, but the Scouts and Explorers have really helped him. He got his gold badge for Scouting last month and won an award on Friday night.”
Mr Smith added: “I don’t want to blame the school. What we want to achieve is raised awareness of the impact of such a stupid act.
“I don’t even want to blame the boy that did it.”
Kent Police did investigate and a teenage boy received a youth conditional caution.