When I dropped my son off at school I had no idea I was sending him to a deathtrap. . . By Claire Bartlett, 37

‘Come on Ben - you have to go in today,’ I demanded as I ruffled my 16-year-old-son’s bed sheets.

Ben had been off school with winter flu for over a week and I was determined to get him back to class.

‘Ten more minutes,’ Ben mumbled from under the covers, but I was having none of it. ‘You’ll get behind on your schoolwork,’ I scolded. ‘Get up now!’

As a busy mum of three boys, Ben, then 16, James, 14, and David, 11, I always had my hands full.

‘You have ten minutes!’ I yelled up the stairs to my boys. I couldn’t help but smirk as the three of them dashed for the door.

Dropping Ben at school I checked he was ready to get back to class. ‘Have you got everything?’ I asked him.

‘Yes Mum,’ Ben moaned as he hugged me goodbye. I could tell he was actually itching to get back to class and see his mates. ‘Have a nice day,’ I yelled as Ben ran into school.

Arriving home after the school run, I couldn’t wait for some child-free time. Our house had been so hectic lately. Dashing upstairs, I climbed into bed and treated myself to a rare nap before getting on with my household chores.

My day had been perfect, until the phone rang at lunchtime. It was the school. ‘Ben’s had an accident and hurt his head,’ the receptionist told me.

He’d only been back five minutes!

I said I’d be right over but as I pulled my coat on, the phone rang again. ‘Ben’s been airlifted to hospital,’ the teacher went on. My heart hammered in my chest. What kind of accident was it?

Nothing could have prepared me for the severity of my boy’s injuries. I rushed from Essex to the hospital in London, when the phone rang again.

This time it was my middle son, James. ‘Mum, it’s all over the news - Ben’s been stabbed in his carpentry class.’ I felt sick.

Arriving at the hospital, medics finally explained what had happened to my boy. Ben had been working quietly in his woodwork class when another student had grabbed him for no reason and violently sunk a chisel into his head.

It was Ben’s first day back in school after being off poorly - my worst fear had been him falling behind on his schoolwork, now this.

Ben had a fractured skull, a blood clot and a bleed on the brain. I was inconsolable - I thought Ben would be safe at school

‘How is he?’ I asked as I peered into his hospital room, but medics dropped the bombshell. ‘He’s fallen into a coma,’ the consultant explained. ‘He’s only got a two percent chance of survival, I’m sorry.’

I couldn’t believe it. ‘What if he pulls through?’ I asked hopefully, but the doctors faces fell. My poor boy would never walk again.

‘And even if he does make it, he’ll probably be severely brain damaged,’ the doctor explained. I felt numb as I sat by Ben’s bedside.

Willing Ben to come round from his coma, I never left his side. I was terrified, I didn’t want my little boy to think he was alone.

I was on tenterhooks as surgeons whisked Ben into theatre for brain surgery. I didn’t know what I’d do if Ben didn’t make it.

Somehow, Ben pulled through, but he was still in a coma. I kept a bedside vigil and every minute felt like an hour but finally, after four weeks, Ben opened his eyes.

I wept with joy when he flashed me a weak smile. Finally, all my prayers had been answered. Ben was alive, and that’s all that mattered.

But as Ben was checked over, medics explained we weren’t out of the woods yet.

He still had a long way to go. Ben was completely paralysed and would have to learn to do everything again, from walking to eating.

I refused to accept the doctors’ grim prognosis and concentrated on getting Ben moving again. ‘Look Mum,’ he beamed as he started to wiggle his left hand.

‘I’m going to walk again, Mum,’ he told me defiantly. I’d never been prouder. Ben recovered better than doctors had predicted and finally, after two months, he was allowed home.

It was such a relief to have him back with the family. James and David couldn’t wait to have their big brother home, we were all so relieved.

Over the following year, Ben slowly recovered, and after months of intense physiotherapy he took his first steps.

They might have been wobbly, but seeing my boy walking was the proudest moment of my life. ‘Well done Ben, you did it!’ I grinned

Ben continued to defy doctors’ expectations and soon my boy was mobile again with minimal aid. But despite Ben’s strength, he was no longer the cheeky teen he’d once been.

Ben’s confidence plummeted, and he refused to go outside. ‘I just can’t Mum,’ he whispered nervously.

My boy’s life had been changed forever, over nothing. It was heartbreaking.

Finally, in November 2015, Ben’s classroom attacker pled guilty to GBH and was sentenced to 18 months in a juvenile detention centre.

Now, four years on, Ben still struggles to walk and is paralysed on his left side. He still needs help to get around, but I’m so proud of how far he’s come.

I can’t help but wonder ‘what if?’’ If I’d just kept Ben off school for one more day, this never would have happened.

But I can’t think like that and I know I have to try to stay strong for Ben. Still, when you send your kids to school, you expect them to be safe. I can’t believe I sent my boy to a deathtrap.

As families up and down the country prepare to send their children back to school this week, Claire wanted to send a word of warning. Her son's life changed forever after one day in the classroom and now she wants to tell other parents to be cautious. We helped Claire sell her story to the biggest UK's women's magazine as well as a publication in Australia, raising global awareness.


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