Meet the inspirational real life Mr Happy who just can’t stop smiling
Meet the real life Mr Happy whose rare form of brain damage means he can’t stop SMILING.
Samuel Bishop, from Plymouth, suffered brain damaged after a suicide attempt last year.
The 20-year-old was hours from death after inhaling carbon monoxide, and doctors warned that even if he did recover he wouldn’t walk or talk again.
But miraculously the former-plasterer has made a full recovery – other than damage to the part of his brain that regulates emotion.
Sam said: “I hit rock bottom and couldn’t come to terms with being sexually abused for three years when I was a child.
“I was in a very bad place and wanted to end it all, so I locked myself in a garage and switch on the ignition of my motorbike.
“We believe my mum found me around six hours later, I was in a dreadful state and it took me a long time to recover.
“What I did wasn’t the right way to go about the solving problems I had.
“I believe coming that close to death and the brain injury has turned my life around.
“My life is getting much better now, he hasn’t broke me I’m recovering and I will go on to help other people.
“Now I find it really easy being happy now as I’ve forgotten what it was like to be sad.
“Because I’m so happy I feel like a huge weight lifted off my shoulders and see the world in a completely new way.
“I’ve got no idea how to be negative now and can’t feel sadness so life can be quite strange at times.
“Sometimes I can find myself smiling even when I know I shouldn’t look happy but I can’t control it.
“Even when I try to stop myself doing it I smile even more and then start laughing because I’m trying to stop myself from smiling.”
Sam even struggles to keep a straight face when talking about serious topics.
He added: “Even when I’m talking about sad things like death I’m always smiling.
“Feeling so happy has made it really easy for me to help other people with their problems.
“Doctors explained to me that the main parts of my brain that are permanently damaged are my emotions.
“But the parts of my brain that are damaged can all find a way of rewiring itself so in the future I could regain full emotions.”
In July last year doctors told Sam’s family that he wouldn’t survive an accident that left him with carbon monoxide poising – CT scans revealed there was no brain activity.
After one week in a medically induced coma at the Derriford Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit he hadn’t made any signs of improvement.
But 24 hours before his life support machine was switched off he started breathing and moved his arms for the first time.
After 13 days in the coma he opened his eyes and started talking to doctors.
Sam said: “I had the gruelling task of learning everything how to walk, talk and other basic actions again.
“Two months after being admitted to hospital I was released but had to undertake months of physiotherapy.
“During my recovery my sister Cara, 26, and the rest of my family launched a campaign called ‘The Adventures of Thumb’ to try and encourage my recovery and make me smile.”
They asked friends and family from all over the world to take a picture of themselves with a smiling face drawn on their thumb – referring to a joke about a tattoo of a smiley face on Sam’s knee.
Now less than a year on Sam is leading a normal life, only needing a wheelchair for long journeys and suffering from short term memory loss.
Sister Cara said: “At first he couldn’t even move his eyes now we’re just amazed he’s overcame all the obstacles in his way.
“But he was so determined to defy the doctors who told him it would take two years before he could walk and he did it.
“He was trying so hard to overcome all of his problems that we felt he needed something to give him a little boost.
“Before we’d always made jokes about his smiley tattoo.
“So we started ‘the Adventure of Thumb’ to try and bring a smile back to my brother’s face.
“I wanted him and everyone else to know that there was a light at the end of the tunnel and no matter how bad things are you can still put a smile on your face.
“When he saw the first pictures it was the first time we saw him smile.
“Ever since the Sam hasn’t been able to stop smiling and has battled against all his problems with a smile on his face.”
Sam’s unusual condition came after he attempted to take his own life in July last year following a long stretch of depression which stemmed from him being sexually abused as a child.
Paedophile Alexander Lake, 39, of East Cliff, Porthtowan, who abused Sam and two others victims, was jailed for 20 years by Truro Crown Court in December last year.
Sam believes his recovery was spurred on by being determined to walk into court for Lake’s sentencing.
Luke Griggs, spokesman for Headway, the brain injury association added: “A brain injury can have a significant impact on a person’s ability to control their emotions.
“Every brain injury is unique and it is very difficult to predict how someone’s personality may change following injury.
“Having control of our emotions is an important personal skill and losing that ability can cause challenges with forming and maintaining relationships.
“It is important that anyone affected by behavioural or emotional problems after brain injury – whether the individual or a partner or family member – receives support to help cope with the significant challenges that brain injury can bring.”
For further information and support, visit www.headway.org.uk or call the Headway helpline on 0808 800 2244.
Sam’s family are raising money to buy iPads that will help people with brain trauma to communicate with their loved ones – you can donate at www.justgiving.com/adventuresofthumb/