A BLACK Isle teenager has become the first Highland scout to receive an exclusive medal in recognition of his courage in piecing his life back together after suffering a catastrophic brain haemorrhage.
Diarmuid Martin from Avoch was struck by the devastating intracranial bleed in the middle of the night in January 2014 and has since had to relearn to read, write and other basic tasks.
Three years on, the fifteen-year-old Fortrose Academy third year pupil has been left with permanent visual impairment and memory loss, but his upbeat attitude and involvement in the Avoch Sea Scouts has been key to his long road to recovery.
Ninety of his friends, relatives and health and education professionals involved in his recuperation gathered for a special ceremony in the council chamber at Dingwall’s County Buildings last Friday to see Diarmuid presented with a Jack Cornwall Gold Medal for high character, devotion to duty and great courage under suffering.
“It was an opportunity for Diarmuid to thank various professionals for their support,” said his father Derek Martin.
The medal is a rare honour bestowed by the scouting movement and it is believed to be the first time it has been presented in the Highlands and only the second or third time it has been given in Scotland.
It is named after Jack Cornwall, a 16-year-old boy scout who was underage when he enlisted as a seaman in World War I. He was fatally wounded at the Battle of Jutland and was later posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.
As a result of receiving the medal of meritorious conduct, Diarmuid, his dad and mum Majella will be invited as guests to the National Scout Parade at Windsor Castle next month where he will meet Chief Scout Bear Grylls.
Mr Martin, a skipper with Avoch Sea Scouts, told the Ross-shire Journal: “Like most kids of his age he’s tickled pink, he did question a week or so that he didn’t feel special, that in itself speaks volumes, but we as parents said ‘this isn’t about what you think, it is about what other people think about the effort you’ve put in to recover and continue scouting’.”
Mr Martin said the brain injury occurred during the night without warning.
“He was lucky to survive, lucky to get through it, and that was down to the paramedics that night who realised quickly this was beyond their capabilities and got him to Raigmore Hospital where they realised it was beyond theirs and they got him in a helicopter to Edinburgh,” he said.
Major brain surgery and weeks of recovery in Edinburgh and Inverness hospitals followed. Mr Martin said his son had an upbeat attitude and got on with life.
Diarmuid was in the sea scouts before his illness and Mr Martin said his son’s return to the group and the support from his peers there helped his recovery.
“The sea cadets themselves have been able to encourage him to do what he can,” he said.
“For example he is a qualified power boat driver and the crew that go with him support him by providing the look out for the right hand side.”
Among the guests at the medal ceremony were two doctors who treated Diarmuid, education professionals and people from his school, as well as the Taekwondo team that provided physiotherapy.
Jenny Steven, Regional Scout Commissioner, spoke at the ceremony about the Cornwall Awards, and Lord Lieutenant Janet Bowen said a few words about the “remarkable young man” before presenting him with the medal.
She said: “Diarmuid has had terrific support and encouragement from his family, friends and key health and educational staff. In 2016 a working plan was drawn up by NHS Highland. Any amount of plans and ideas can be put in place, but they are ultimately useless without the decision of Diarmuid himself to buy into them, work with everyone and be determined to overcome any hurdle. This takes immense courage and oodles of determination. Both of which Diarmuid has in spades.”