Published: 06:00, 25 July 2021
| Updated: 10:23, 25 July 2021
A circus boss who spent seven months in a coma is now back in the Big Top despite being unable to walk.
Roger Santus, 63, was hit by a car after falling off his push-bike last year while the circus was marooned in a field in Sittingbourne during a Covid lockdown and unable to travel.
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But now the dad and grandfather has proved the show must go on. He has taught himself to talk again and is playing the drums twice a night for Santus Circus Le Cirque De France at Sheerness on the Isle of Sheppey.
He said: "I don't remember anything about the accident. I just remember waking up from the coma.
"I know my family didn't expect me to survive but I am a strong man with a strong wife, strong kids and a strong brother. They have all been through hell.
"But they are helping me recover. I was determined to fight back. The circus is in my blood and it's great to be back. When I came out of the coma I couldn't speak or use my hands or legs properly. I have had to learn to do everything again. I still need a wheelchair and I have a bit of a stutter but I am just glad to be alive."
Before the accident in June, 2020, Roger, who owns the circus with his brother Ernest, had been responsible for ensuring everything ran smoothly and for looking after the publicity posters.
The former jazz drummer now needs help backstage climbing onto the tiny bandstand to beat the drums in time with the acts.
Ernest, 73, said: "It is very nice having him back because the circus is his life. He loves playing the drums and feels better being part of the show. It makes him so happy. I think it is fantastic."
Roger also has trouble with his vision since the accident on the A2 at Bapchild and can only make out fuzzy shapes. But he is hoping his sight will improve with specialist help. At the moment he must wear sunglasses to protect his remaining eye from the bright lights of the circus tent.
His daughter Ruby, who has her own balancing act, said: "Dad was in a coma for seven months and then spent two months in rehabilitation. It should have been longer but he was on his own in a room because of Covid so we brought him home."
Roger was first taken to King's College Hospital, London, with leg, chest and brain injuries. After a short spell at Medway Maritime Hospital he was transferred to the Kent and Canterbury Hospital, Canterbury. He now has a mobility scooter to help him get around the circus site.
Video: Roger Santus with daughter Ruby and son Lucien
Ruby said: "It was just horrible when we heard about dad. But having him back is the best thing because the hospital wasn't very hopeful when he wouldn't wake up from the coma.
"We weren't sure we were ever going to get him back, let alone in this condition where he can sit up, talk to us and play the drums. We are so lucky for that because without the drums the show wouldn't be the same!"
His son, clown Lucien said: "There's just not words to describe what it was like when we heard about the accident. We had no idea at the time how serious it was. I was working at a part-time job, because the circus couldn't tour, when I got the call. They didn't give me much information so as not to worry me.
"I was on my way to the accident when I got caught in the traffic caused by the accident. Then I heard from somebody in front of me what had happened. It was just horrible, really horrible."
Lucien added: "We are always happy to come back to Sheerness because we know a lot of people here."
But one town they won't be playing this year is Sittingbourne where the accident happened. Ernest admitted: "We love Sittingbourne but it still has too many unhappy memories for us at the moment."
The Santus brothers have been performing in Britain for more than 40 years after moving from France. There were originally six brothers and two sisters who had their own comedy trapeze act which was in demand across the UK and on the BBC.
The circus is back on tour with a double headline act of the Nare family's Globe of Speed motorcycle stunt team and the £15,000 Wheel of Death operated by Sergio Silva from Portugal. A laser display is lighting up the Big Top at Barton’s Point Coastal Park, Sheerness, until Sunday (August 1). From then, the show moves to Whitstable.
The Kent-based circus also features an aerial pole act from Mongolian gymnast Aggii, a nerve-tingling crossbow presentation, solo trapeze with a death-defying somersault, a hand-standing woman who fires a bow and arrow with her feet, a foot-juggler, hula-hoopers and aerial silk artistes.
Tickets are from £10 with family tickets at £45 (£60 ringside) from 07843 884787.