A young man who tested positive twice for COVID-19 while in a coma is awake and responding for the first time in nearly a year.

Joseph Flavill, 19, was hit by a vehicle on March 1, 2020 and suffered a severe traumatic brain injury, according to his family.

The International Business Times reports the British teenager now is minimally conscious and able to smile and respond to questions by blinking his eyes.

“We write this week with some amazing news on Joe! He is really engaging with all of your messages and he has started to make some really meaningful steps in the recovery process,” the family wrote Jan. 31 on their website Joseph’s Journey.

Joe’s accident was especially difficult for the family because of the breaking COVID-19 pandemic. Because of restrictions, they said only Joe’s mother was allowed to visit him at the hospital.

Then, Joe tested positive for the virus himself twice while in the coma, according to the report.

Despite all the obstacles, his family said he is “recovering well.”

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“He has been following commands, for example, touching his left and his right ear when asked to do so, he is able to move both of his legs, he is answering yes and no through blinking and the most amazing step is that he has shown us his incredible sense of humour,” they wrote on the website. “His smiles this week have brought us all to tears!”

Now that he is awake, his aunt Sally Flavill Smith told Staffordshire Live that they are trying to figure out how to explain all that has changed in the world as a result of the pandemic.

“We also don’t know how much he understands as his accident was before the first lockdown and it’s almost like he has slept through the whole pandemic,” she said. “It’s hard as we know he is more alert, but how do you explain the pandemic to someone who has been in a coma?”

Flavill Smith said the family visits with the teen via video conference, and they hope to eventually see him face-to-face again soon.

“When he can actually have the face-to-face contact, that will be the opportunity to actually try to explain to him what has happened,” she said.

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