A family holiday on a Mediterranean island ended in tragedy when five-year-old Rhys Nute was hit on a zebra crossing by a drunk driver.
As their son lay in a coma, devastated parents Vicky and David were told he may never return to school.
But 16 years later and Rhys has just graduated with honours.
Speaking after the graduation ceremony, mum Vicky, 45, said: “It was such a proud day for the whole family. It was quite emotional to see him walk across the stage.
“We would never have thought he could have achieved all this after the prognosis we received at the time.”
The accident happened during a family holiday to Corfu in May 1997.
Vicky said: “We had only just flown into the airport and we were crossing the road to get the bus when he was hit by a car on the zebra crossing.”
Rhys, now 21, was in a coma for four weeks and suffered permanent brain damage following the accident, which left him in a wheelchair with ongoing speech and mobility difficulties.
Vicky added: “We were only on Corfu for six hours. We were airlifted to hospital in Athens, but it was terrifying being in a foreign hospital. We wanted to be with Rhys all the time, but we were only allowed to visit him for 10 minutes twice a day.”
The family believe the driver left the island the day after the incident.
“He could never get what I would call justice,” said Vicky.
Tiny and vulnerable, Rhys was in hospital for nine days before being repatriated to the UK. He was then nursed in the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff for six weeks, but his family were told he would struggle to return to school.
Despite the doctors’ warnings, Rhys returned to class less than half a year later and continued his studies at primary school, where he received one-to-one support. He then went on to study for his GCSEs at St Cyres School in Penarth.
Vicky, who gave up her job as a chef to become a full-time carer for her son, said: “He is a real fighter.”
Rhys lived at home with his parents in Watford Park, Caerphilly, while completing his three-year undergraduate course in information systems at Cardiff Metropolitan University and graduated with a 2:1 last week.
Proud mum Vicky said: “Rhys has always loved IT from a young age. He has always been a bit of a natural.”
Not only has Rhys excelled in his academic studies, but he is also an active member of a local wheelchair basketball team and trains hard every Thursday, as well as going to the gym regularly.
Nigel Jones, senior lecturer in information systems at Cardiff Metropolitan University, said: “The Information Systems lecturers at Cardiff Metropolitan University were incredibility proud to see Rhys and, indeed, all of our students graduate last week.
“We’d like to congratulate everyone on their individual successes and, speaking in particular about Rhys, I think it is fair to say that his continued self-determination, hard work and dedication to his studies acted as an inspiration to all.
“To watch him make the huge effort to leave his wheelchair and walk across the stage to meet Cardiff Met vice chancellor and principal, Professor Antony Chapman on graduation day was a very special moment.”
Rhys, who now hopes to find a job in IT in South Wales, said: “I really enjoyed graduation, but it was a bit scary walking across the stage.
“I’ve always enjoyed IT and I would love to find a job in computing.”