Exploring the 'Alby Effect' in new book written about Harold Wood hero
- Credit: G Bentley
A new book has been released on Alby Dobinson, the boy from Harold Wood who rose to prominence after suffering a near-fatal car crash.
In December 2007, then 14-year-old Alby was crossing a road on his way home from school when he was hit by a car.
More than a decade on, author Anne Maxwell has penned the story of tragedy, tribulation and triumph that followed.
Its title, The Boy who Refused to Die, swipes at a headline hated by Alby's family which accompanied a story in the Daily Mail in 2008: "The boy who wouldn't die."
Many of the details surrounding the crash became well known, such was the seriousness of Alby's condition and the considered likelihood of his survival.
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Anne's account shows Alby, now 26, to be every inch a survivor, with his story an inspiration to anyone who has faced adversity.
What Anne's writing offers is a true reflection of how an accident like this impacts everyone and everything, wreaking havoc with an endless number of consequences.
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Beyond this, the author has a clear familiarity with the situation, borne out of the fact that her husband Glynn supported Alby at the pupil administration and support service at Shenfield High School.
The book takes the reader on a journey beginning when Alby's accident happened in 2007 through to his finishing school in September 2014.
Many people will know that he spent time at Queen's Hospital, Great Ormond Street Hospital, King George Hospital and The Children's Trust in Tadworth, but what this book offers is an insight into how Alby's family lived through that 16-month hospitalisation period.
It doesn't hold back in describing the helplessness felt by mum Lisa and stepdad Mark, nor the anger felt by younger brother Jimmy.
With sections written from each person's perspective, Lisa's initial response - "this sort of thing happens to other people, but not us" - will resonate with most.
Mark's stoicism - "I must be strong for Lisa, but I love Alby too, so where do I get my strength from?" - feels familiar.
And anger in the face of injustice - "with the world and everyone in it, with life, and with the way things had changed" - is universal.
Anne sensitively portrays how tragedy often drives reconciliation, shown by how Lisa and Alby's dad Scott came together after a two-year estrangement.
Another theme is firsts: some sad, others triumphant.
Lisa spent her first Christmas Day after the accident hoping it was all a dream, only to be cruelly reminded of her reality.
The first time Alby speaks after the incident - in July 2008 - is met with wild celebrations; never has the word "Tom" sounded so good.
Ultimately, what defines this book is the overriding sense of triumph through adversity.
A boy who almost died goes on to talk again, walk again, pass his GCSEs, carry the Paralympic torch and become a mentor at his beloved Shenfield High School.
This is the same person who didn't immediately wake up when weaned off sedation in December 2007.
It's the story of an individual so inspiring that the book talks of his own phenomenon, which it coins the Alby Effect. It is the "extraordinary way in which people found themselves affected by an extraordinary young man".
Everyone who knew Alby was rooting for him.
Arguably the best of the book comes in its final pages, where Alby's personal contribution reads as a refreshing account of acceptance.
From calling smokers "social outcasts", to admissions of electric wheelchair speeding, Alby's excerpt is littered with humour.
He admits to enjoying how the Alby Effect made him something of a "star attraction".
There's a refreshing honesty to how Alby discusses his life: living with a disability presents huge challenges, but has also "opened up a whole new world".
Independent living - one day, with the help of an assistance dog - is his target, and he isn't afraid to aim for it.
Why would he be? Alby Dobinson overcomes obstacles; this is no different.