A football-mad teenager who had half his skull removed after falling through a roof is playing for his team again 12 months after surgeons put his head back together ”like a jigsaw”.
Tom Buckett, 17, spent two weeks in a coma after his skull smashed ”like an egg” when he plunged 15ft through a glass skylight onto his head.
The talented striker nearly died in the accident last May and doctors warned he would never play the sport again.
But he made a miraculous recovery after he became only the third person in the UK to have a fake skull glued onto his head – known as a bone cranioplasty.
Experts in Italy designed a new skull for Tom using a synthetic material similar to bone before flying it to Britain for surgeons to fit onto the teenager’s head.
Incredibly, after months of intensive physiotherapy the talented striker is back playing football again.
He has to wear a plastic helmet during matches but doctors have warned Tom not to head the ball – in case it caves his skull in and kills him.
Stoke City fan Tom, from Clayton, Staffs., said: ”It’s been a long road to get here, with a lot of ups and downs.
”But I’m so excited to be playing my first match – I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time.
”Football is my life and I’m just glad the fall from the roof hasn’t taken that away from me.
”I have been told not to head the ball in case it causes my skull to cave in and kill me.
”It sounds scary but I’m not worried – I’m just happy to be playing again.”
Tom broke his skull in 10 places on May 30 last year after he fell trying to retrieve a football during a kick-about with pals at Clayton Hall Business and Language College, in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffs.
He was rushed to University Hospital of North Staffordshire where doctors found the left side of his head was caved in and his brain exposed.
When he woke up from a two week coma he was completely paralysed down his right side and was unable to speak.
He had to wear a protective helmet on his head to protect his exposed brain and after a few weeks he managed to mouth to his mum, ”I love you”.
Tom underwent a £10,000 surgery to rebuild his skull last December after the NHS agreed to foot the bill, ruling his case was ”exceptional.”
Doctors flew in a synthetic piece of artificial skull from Italy and slotted it into Tom’s undamaged skull ”like a jigsaw”.
During his long recovery Tom was visited by Stoke City players including defender Andy Wilkinson who even had a kick-about with him in the hospital corridor.
Mum Mandy, 44, said: ”We’re all so proud of Tom – doctors say he’s made a miracle recovery.
”He had such a severe head injury, most people wouldn’t normally survive it.
”His skull basically smashed like an egg.
”His new skull is a bit like a jigsaw.
”We were told our boy would never play football again but he’s amazed everyone with his determination.
”Of course I worry about Tom playing football but he lives for the game and I know he’ll be careful.”