Just 15 months ago engineer Jim Box was running two successful companies. But a near-fatal hit and run threatened everything he had worked so hard for. Here he chats to editor Leanne Fawcett about the experience, the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had and why he is now fully focussed on re-building his businesses.

The past 12 months have been tough for everyone.

The coronavirus pandemic has had a more catastrophic impact than any of us could have imagined.

In the 10 months or so since the first cases were announced, hundreds of thousands of people have died and businesses of all sizes have been hit hard. Many people have lost their jobs and homes and now, over seven months since the UK went into a full national lockdown, we’re still far from over the worst with cases and deaths once again rising to unimaginable levels.

But for Jim Box, the pandemic has been bittersweet.

Because while the 47-year-old dad of two has seen his businesses impacted and work dry up, the months of lockdown also gave him the time he so desperately needed to continue his recovery from a near-fatal hit and run which left him in an induced coma for two weeks and in James Cook University Hospital for nine weeks.

It was a Friday night like any other, July 13, 2019, when Jim, his wife Joanne and two of their friends had been out to watch a hypnotist at Shotton Hall Banqueting Suite. Afterwards they popped over to the Black Bull pub for a final couple of drinks before making the short walk home.

But on their journey, as they were chatting about their evening, they were hit by a drink and drug driver who ploughed into them, catapulting them into the air and onto the ground nearby.

The driver fled, leaving them injured in the road.

Sadly, Jim was the most seriously hurt, suffering a bleed on the brain, a smashed jaw, a cracked cheekbone, seven broken ribs, a punctured lung and lacerated liver.

He was blue-lighted to hospital where his condition was so serious that doctors made the decision to put him in an induced coma to allow his body the best possible chance to stabilise.

Jim said: “I cannot remember any of the accident, but obviously I know how lucky I am to be here. My injuries were life-threatening and I know it was touch and go whether I would pull through.

“Thankfully, I am here to tell the tale, and whilst my recovery is continuing, I am definitely feeling like my old self.

“It’s been 15 months since it happened, and my focus now is on gradually building my businesses back up as before, things were going really well.

“It’s strange to say but in some ways the coronavirus pandemic was a blessing for me, because it gave me the quieter period of months to focus on my recovery. There wasn’t the pressure there possibly would have been to try and keep the business going, which meant I could really work towards building up my physical strength and adjusting to some of the side affects which came from the injuries I’d sustained.”

During his recovery, Jim’s businesses, Be Smart Solutions and Be Recycled, were put on hold, but now he is back working almost full time and is targeting growth in both areas.

An engineer by trade, Jim left St Bede’s School in Peterlee and started his career with a YTS. At 17, for five years, he worked with Seaward Electronic before completing a HNC in mechanical and production engineering.

He then worked for Edwin Trisk in Sunderland and Thorn Lighting in Durham, with Be Smart Solutions launching in 2007.

Initially Jim worked all over the country, delivering short-term contracts for businesses that required his technical expertise.

But as Be Smart Solutions became more established, Jim’s client portfolio grew and he secured work closer to home, including with his former employer Thorn.

At the start of 2019 Jim launched Be-Recycled.com, which takes empty wine bottles and creatively personalises them to be given as celebration gifts.

Now, as Jim adapts to some of the ongoing affects of the hit and run, including some memory loss, he is more determined than ever to enjoy life and build the businesses back up.

Part of that is re-locating to an office at home.

Jim added: “I’m definitely looking towards a positive future and am excited to almost feel like I’m starting from scratch with both businesses. I think lockdown has given many people the chance to reflect on their working life and for me it has offered the chance to really think about what is important and what I want to achieve.

“What has happened to me and seeing the impact coronavirus has had on so many lives has also made me appreciate everything I have and to never take things for granted.”