Brave Declan Sephton-Hulme didn’t let a brain haemorrhage stop him following his dreams of becoming a rugby league player – and his courage has earned him the first ever Adam Bell Scholarship from Edge Hill University.
When announcing the winner, Adam’s father, Jack, made a moving tribute to his late son. He said:
“We take great comfort and a deep sense of pride in this award. Adam was the first person to set up the scholarship awards and he never lost interest in them. Whenever we come back to Edge Hill University his memory is enriched, the support we have been given by staff has been tremendous. For the winners of these awards, I would say, never underestimate the effect you can have on those around you in all the wonderful things that you do.”
Declan, from St Helens, was chosen this year’s winner for his honesty, resilience, hardwork and commitment to his studies.
The BSc (Hons) Sport and Exercise Science student has shown tremendous courage in the face of adversity. In April 2006 Declan suffered a brain haemorrhage and an eleven-day coma as a result of a genetic brain condition called Arterio Venous Malformation (AVM).
When asked whether he would play rugby league again, his father was told that if he came out of the coma Declan would be likely to experience paralysis, cerebral palsies and be unable to walk or talk. Amazingly these residual symptoms did not appear and Declan, although left with memory and speech problems, returned home after two months in hospital.
Despite undergoing treatment, Declan still lives with the knowledge that it could rupture again and as a result he is more determined than ever to succeed in his goal of becoming a professional rugby league player.
He returned to rugby in 2007, and with great success. After gaining a place on the Warrington Wolves Scholarship Programme he has gone on to play rugby for Widnes Vikings and has been invited to attend the England Academy.
“Although I’ve been through a lot and I had to change my career ideas because I can forget things as a result of the haemorrhage I’ve never given up my dreams of playing rugby,” said Declan.
“To win the Adam Bell Scholarship was so special. I felt thrilled but emotional when my name was called. It’s such a nice gesture and I really appreciate it. I felt so passionate when I heard Adam’s story, especially thinking back to when I was in my coma. I felt so much sympathy towards his mum and dad because I could understand what they were going through. I’ve been so lucky to pull through and these awards will help me prepare for playing professional rugby full-time as well as juggle my studies.”