run around:
run from one place to another

act; (your behaviour is what you do)

expecting a baby

go dry:
become dry

was the doctors’ fault:
the doctors were responsible for the damage

looking back:
thinking about the past

Richard Coman (easy version)

Richard Coman was born in 1964. Until 2004, he lived with his parents in an English village called Tunstead. He lived with his parents until they were over seventy years old.

Richard looked like a normal adult, but he behaved like a very young child. He liked running and playing with toys, but he could’t play outside by himself because he didn’t understand that cars are dangerous. He could talk, but only like a child. He could’t get dressed by himself and he could’t wash himself.

Richard behaved like a child because his brain had been damaged when he was born.

Richard’s mother, Joan, had no problems while she was pregnant. But Richard didn’t arrive when he was expected. Joan’s doctors gave her some medicine, and waited for two weeks but Richard still didn’t arrive. In the end, they had to cut Joan’s stomach open so Richard could be born.

Richard was weak when he was born, but he soon got stronger. When he came home from the hospital, he was a beautiful baby and his parents thought he was normal. The doctors in the hospital had told them nothing about what the problem had been.

Joan and her husband, Sidney, soon realized that something was wrong though. Their neighbours had a baby just two weeks older than Richard and that baby was soon moving around and doing things. But Richard just lay in bed for two years. Then, suddenly, he got up and started running around.

When Richard was four years old, his parents took him to a famous children’s hospital in London. By that time, they were almost certain that Richard had been hurt while he was being born. The doctors in London told them they were right; Richard’s brain had been damaged. They didn’t tell them how this had happened, but they did tell them there was nothing they could do to help Richard.

Later, Joan and Sidney learned that while Joan was pregnant, her uterus had gone dry and that was why Richard’s brain had been damaged.

Until Richard was thirty-seven, his parents looked after him. They got no help from the government. Even though Richard did go to a special school, looking after Richard was a very big job for Sidney and Joan. Sidney stayed at his full-time job but Joan could only do part-time jobs. She says that for thirty-seven years she was the mother of a young child—and that during that time, she never had a full night’s sleep.

Richard’s parents believed that what had happened to him was the doctors’ fault. They thought that if the doctors had done their job properly, Richard would have been normal. But they never thought of trying to get money from the hospital. Then, in 1994, they read a newspaper story about a twenty-eight-year-old man who had been hurt while he was being born. Many years later this man’s lawyers had gone to court and got money from the hospital.

After they read this story, Richard’s parents decided they would go to court too. They won and they were given over £3 million. Joan and Sidney used the money to buy a larger house and to pay people to look after Richard. They continued to live in the new house with Richard but they kept their old house so they could spend their weekends there and have some time to themselves.

After they got the money, Joan and Sidney didn’t have to worry any more about what would happen to Richard when they were too old to look after him. Looking back, they said they felt that, although their lives had been difficult, they had been happier with Richard than they would have been without him. Joan said that, for her and Sidney, Richard was still a beautiful boy who had brought warmth and laughter into their lives.

- information from: The Guardian, (London), 02.04.25, (Esther Addley); The Guardian, (London), 02.01.14, (Clare Dyer); What’s New Archive, (