Michael's story

Accident: 5:30pm, Friday 7th March 2014....                                                                                           

After falling 2 storeys from my loft, and crashing to the floor I knew instantly, after such a heavy impact, that there was going to be some damage done to my body. The moment I landed though, I did for a second consider getting up and lying on a sofa in the next room, and with the adrenaline pumping I suppose I may have been able to. But I quickly came to my senses and decided it wouldn’t be wise to move, within a minute or so the pain had kicked in and I was going nowhere!

I instinctively checked to see if I could move my feet and wiggle my toes, and was relieved to see that I could.

I then reached to my pocket for my mobile phone, unlocked it and passed it to Jack, my co-worker, who was just a couple of feet away from where I landed. Unfortunately he was so overcome with shock that he was literally unable to speak let alone ring for an ambulance. He gave the phone back to me and I dialled 999.

I was having difficulty with my breathing, partly still slightly winded from the impact of the fall, but more-so I think from just trying to deal with the pain. However, I was fully conscious and managed to give the operator my name, address, and details of what had happened, including the height of my fall, which I guessed to be “about 5 or 6 metres”. I now know the exact height was 5.4 metres and I now know that falls of 5 metres or more automatically trigger the Air Ambulance into action, if it is available.

Luckily in my case it was available and it arrived soon after the paramedics. In the few minutes before the paramedics came, the pain in my right hip was becoming unbearable. The only comfort I could get was to have my right knee raised and I got Jack to place a pile of wooden blocks to my right hand side so that I could rest my right knee against them.

The Air Ambulance Doctor, John Ferris, gave me Morphine and one or two other medications, but the pain was still so severe in my right hip area that I couldn’t straighten my right knee down flat, which was necessary to get me in the stretcher. Eventually I was given a drug called Ketamine which definitely did the trick! I think they could have cut both legs off at that point and I wouldn’t have felt a thing, such was the effect of that drug!

The Ambulance crew were concerned that there may be fractures to the hip or pelvis and the possibility of internal bleeding was a major concern, and this is what prompted them to bring me to The Royal London Hospital, by air!

The journey to the RLH took just 4 minutes from my house (near Wembley) and despite the effects of the Ketamine I remember quite clearly being on the roof, and coming down the ramps from the helipad and down into the Trauma unit. Here Doctor Simon Walsh took over from Doctor Ferris and arranged for me to be scanned.

The scans showed that I had six broken Transverse Processes, L1 to L5 and S1, all in my lower spine (five were broken off and about an inch away from where they should be), I also had 3 broken ribs and severe bruising in my back, right leg and arms. However, luckily the scans showed no fractures to the hip or pelvis and no internal bleeding. I was given more pain relief and then brought to ICU.

I had 2 nights in ICU where I received excellent care by a dedicated team of Doctors and nurses. I was then transferred to a ward I think on the 12th floor- the views of the London City scape from the window beside my bed were incredible!

It took me a few days, but eventually I started to slowly walk around a bit and I think around the 11th or 12th March I was taken home in an ambulance.

Obviously I was still experiencing high levels of pain and it was a real struggle to get up the stairs to my bedroom when I got home. However, before I left the Royal London, I was given a large stock of strong pain relief medication and some information about when, and how many, to take. I transferred this information into my mobile phone and set reminders to pop up when the medication was due. I don’t recall the name of a couple of the drugs but the routine, to begin with, was as follows.


2x 50g Tramadol, 2x 50g Paracetamol, 1x ?? 1x ?? Ibuprofen 1x GK ? Gabapentin, Syringe of oramorph

The above to be repeated at 12:30hrs, 16:30hrs, and 20:30hrs.

While watching TV one evening a programme came on called “an hour to save your life”. It was fascinating to see the film crew following some of the Air Ambulance missions, particularly as I’d just been through a similar experience myself. One of the missions struck me as very similar to my own experience. A young tree surgeon had fallen from approximately the same height as me and he too had broken transverse processes, on his right side (one less than me I think), and also 3 ribs, on the same side. The only difference was that he’d fallen onto concrete paving slabs on a public footpath and he’d also fractured his skull. The skull fracture could so easily have been overlooked as he was conscious and alert during treatment and it was solely down to the expertise of the Doctors in the trauma unit that this was picked up on. This guy went on to make a full recovery and was back climbing trees, which they showed towards the end of the programme.

I stopped taking the Ibuprofen within a couple of days and lowered the doses of other tablets and gradually, over the space of about two weeks, I weaned myself off the pain killers completely, and at the same time gradually managed to walk a little more each day. Within about 3-4 weeks I was back walking the dogs again and felt pretty good apart a slight numbness in my right lower back and a slight problem with my right shoulder.

Now, 8 months on, my shoulder is all but fully healed and the area of numbness in my back is much smaller. I haven’t yet got back to playing the occasional round of Golf but I think I’ve made an excellent recovery and hopefully will be swinging a golf club again by next spring.

My injuries of course were not life changing but I know that I was extremely lucky not to have been much worse off after falling from such a height and I still feel deeply indebted to John Ferris and the Air Ambulance Team and to Simon Walsh and the Trauma team at the Royal London for their professionalism and dedication, and for the care they took of me.