A DAD who was given just a 10 per cent chance of survival after his van swerved off a rural road and ploughed head-on into a tree has opened-up about the freak accident that changed his life forever.

Neil Hogan lost control of his vehicle while travelling to work along Cole Henley Road, near Whitchurch.

Within seconds, his van had struck a solid oak tree at 50mph.

The former Cameo and Vinyl doorman, who was working as a tree surgeon at the time, was badly injured but still conscious as he was hauled from his vehicle by a passer-by.

Emergency services arrived soon after and Neil, 29, was rushed to Southampton General Hospital in a critical condition in December 2015.

He would spend the next fourand-a-half months in hospital.

Fiancée Tracey Costa, who was expecting the couple’s youngest child Esme at the time, was told Neil had little chance of survival.

He had shattered the right side of his skull in the high-impact crash, suffering brain damage in the process.

Neil was later told by doctors that he had just a 10 per cent chance of surviving the crash.

But survive Neil did and, after three weeks in an induced coma, he was finally woken up.

Reflecting on the experience, the father-of-three said this week: “My first memory is waking up and seeing my daughter, Isabella’s, face.

“She saw me and she let out the biggest and most beautiful smile in I have ever seen.

“I’ll happily admit I cried my eyes out.”

Asked how he felt at the time, he said: “I was feeling very lucky to be alive.

“I wake up every morning and I still count my lucky stars.”

After awakening from the coma, Neil spent the next three months in rehabilitation as he learnt to come to terms with the impact of the accident.

As well as having to recover from a broken neck and a broken shoulder, Neil had also suffered damage to his right frontal lobe – the area of the brain which controls co-ordination.

However, it wasn’t the physical difficulties that the 29-year-old struggled to come to terms with, it was the change in his personality.

“I’ve never felt the same in myself since,” he said: “I feel different and I know I feel different because I remember what I felt like before.

“It can get frustrating. I’m a lot snappier than I used to be.

“My fatigue level is a lot worse as well and my confidence has taken a massive hit.”

It isn’t just Neil who has noticed a change.

Fiancée Tracey admits he hasn’t returned to the Neil she first met.

The 31-year-old, who studies psychology, said: “It’s hard to accept that the person that you love to pieces is not that person he used to be.

“Sometimes it’s difficult to work out what is him and what is the head injury.

“We never used to argue but Neil gets more frustrated now, just at little things and it’s just about reminding him that a lot of the time it doesn’t matter.”

Despite the life-lasting impacts of the accident, the couple remain strong and plan to have their wedding, which was delayed due to the crash, later this year.

Tracey added: “The main thing is that Neil is still alive. I’ve never been with anyone like him before.”

One major source of frustration for Neil is that he has not been able to work since the accident.

The hard-working father has previously held down two jobs at a time and says it has “hurt him” to lose the ability to provide for his family.

He said: “I’ve always worked. I’ve always been the provider.

“I think that’s what frustrates me most. I want to get back into work. “I’m technically signed off still but I’m hoping to do a test climb so I can see if I can go back to tree surgery soon.”

One thing that Neil has done during his recovery is set up a fundraising campaign to give back to those who helped save his life.

Together, the couple have come up with several fundraising ideas, including a community day at their Whitchurch home in November.

Neil also plans to take on a Tough Mudder in September, in aid of brain injury charity Headway.

He will also be raising money for the Neuro Intensive Care Unit in Southampton, which cared for him following the crash.

Speaking about those who have supported him, he said: “No words can describe how grateful I am.

“The guy who found me, Gary, is a really good friend of ours now and he regularly comes around to check up on me.”

As well as raising money, the couple plan to document their journey through a Facebook page. To find out more visit click here