Another question of ''Could my accident have been prevented?''
Life was good. Just one Month before we had just secured a country cottage with a full half acre of manicured gardens. At last my own piece of England.
The day of 16 November, 2015 started as normal as any other, apart from on this day, I was to attend an interview for a permanent role at my place of work where I working as a fitter on an M.O.D. Vessel refit. It was not an Interview I had particularly prepared for however.
That was reserved for Friday the 21st November. That was the role that had been prepared for over 6 Months beforehand and was more in keeping with the direction I wanted to go and more associated with a previous role working on a prestigious contract for the Royal Navy.
The day progressed as normal, carrying out my duties as required. I attended the interview around the half way mark of the day. As expected, it wasn’t a good one for me, and my lack of preparation shone through. Still a disappointment whatever way you look at it. Afterwards I changed back into my work attire including all the relevant mandatory PPE, and returned to my duties. I was tasked with checking out a leaking pipe which was letting water into the vessel. No problem. I climbed the outside scaffolding ladders to check where the source of the leak was coming from. It’s worth mentioning at this stage, it was at a time when some very inclement weather had been hitting the UK with some savagery, for several weeks.
The Complex roof leaked to the point it was effectively awash on the top outer deck of the vessel.
Up on top deck I found where the water was coming through and scaled back down the scaffolding to collect some tooling and sealants. I went inside the vessel at bridge level, to go down the stairwell from this deck to the Officer Accommodation deck below. The riser tube was protected by with Scaffolding handrails and a sprung gate. As I climbed through and started my decent I lost my footing. Ultimately, I fell backwards down the stairwell. This deck was a 3 Metre deck height. I failed to grab anything as it happened instantaneously. I closed my eyes knowing it was going to be a hard landing!!
I landed at the bottom of the stairs. Instantly, I was winded beyond compare and my ass hole tried to turn itself inside out through the impact. I landed with my lower back on the bottom tread and my mid back on the second step up, with my left shoulder blade planted on the handrail which runs closely to the stair edges. (This kind of rail allows naval personnel to slide gracefully down in emergencies.)
I was alone at this point, with no one in the vicinity. My instant reaction was to take as many short breathes as I could to calm myself, then check if my legs were able to move -which they did. I then called for help which duly arrived.
Now, what would seem strange to most was, why was I not screaming and I had not lost any of my P.P.E. e.g. specs and hard hat. I explained what had happened, then all hell broke loose with lots of running around by many people. I was calm and never moved so much as half an inch. Pain was becoming very severe now, from top to bottom of my back and shoulder blade. Nobody from the fast reaction crew knew what to do apart from provide comfort without moving me.
A paramedic arrived, after some 40 minutes of me lying there with pain levels through the roof by now. It took over 2 hours for me to eventually arrive at A&E.
I was sent for a C.T. Scan, which confirmed I had broken my T12 vertebrae and multiple fractures of my left scapula. The Scan also picked up the bulging of several disc in my lower vertebrae. I was given Pain Killers and a Sling for my arm and released at approx 11.20 that evening.
I have re - lived that day so many times, from the time I fell and felt that hopelessness of freefall , the massive impact when the thoughts of what the Hell have I done here. The reaction of my colleagues, the ensuing panic.
The Paramedic arriving so late, asking just a few questions before deciding to stand me up met with shock and horror from all around before administering any kind of pain relief when being ‘sat’ down in the Wardroom.
I wonder why the Ambulance sent for me was diverted because the information the received only suggested I had a shoulder injury. A second Ambulance was only called by the Paramedic which didn’t arrive for some 1 ½ Hours. I walked off that vessel that day.
I wonder why, after such a fall ,I was not kept in Hospital for monitoring when their conclusions suggested a black and white diagnosis. I walked out of Hospital with my then Fiancé,(now my Wife) climbed in the car and went home.
Pain levels never subsided for months and on each of my subsequent recalls and telling Medical Staff of the relentless pain levels, I felt ignored being told it would subside over time.
Over the Months and years I have tried Acupuncture, Physiotherapy, Pilates, Counselling and alternative therapies. Most recently, Pain Management and Mindfulness.
Today, I am fortunately able bodied, but certainly not the man I was before that day. I cannot participate in the hobbies I did anymore. I tend my substantial gardens but only in short bursts due to onset of pain. I work as an Aircraft Mechanic which is a good deal lighter than my previous roles and my colleagues are very understanding.
Personally I have a dogged determination and will carry on until I physically cannot move any more, but every single night I go to bed, (I sleep through exhaustion)but every night I endure agony. This has impacted my life, my relationships with others, including my wife, who fortunately is supportive - to a point, and my son. I missed the interview opportunity for which I pinned so many hopes.
Could my accident have been prevented? Of course it could have, but if all the dominoes line up it changes the game dramatically. It can change your life in an instant.
There are many factors that influenced that day and anyone who reads this can ask the questions. If I can offer any guidance it would be;
It doesn’t matter where you are., always be alert to the risks. Be aware of your surroundings, both in work and in your everyday lives. Don’t be distracted!
Trust your instinct! If it doesn’t feel right just don’t do it! Don’t think you are invincible, have respect for your surroundings & consider the consequences, not just for you but trying out a system that is under evermore pressure. From my experience it’s not all wrapped in cotton wool out there, so most of all look after yourselves.