Joseph’s story

“The safe, standing 6-feet-high and 3-feet-wide, weighing around 1250 kilograms – three times as heavy as a grand piano – manoeuvred off its path, squashing me underneath it. The safe missed my neck but hit me between the shoulder blades, crushing me into the mud.”

At the beginning of October, one of Joseph’s businesses had sustained a break in, with roughly £25,000 worth of equipment being stolen. After replenishing the stolen tools, he knew they had to up their security. On Tuesday 3 November, as Joseph and his team took delivery of an industrial safe, disaster struck when the safe slipped off the pallet and headed straight for Joseph. The HIOWAA Critical Care Team were called instantly. Below, Joseph tells his remarkable story.

When the safe toppled over, I knew I had no chance of getting out the way. In that split second, I pushed myself back off the safe and spun myself around, to avoid causing injury to my neck. My head had gone into survival mode.

When the safe crushed me, I felt exhausted. As though every little bit of breath I had in my body had escaped, like a whoopee cushion that had been sat on. I could barely breathe, just enough to stay alive. As they pulled me out to my knees, I felt my left ankle click. ‘Well, at least I’m out’, I thought. I was conscious but knew I had some serious injuries. My back began to spasm. It felt like I was being electrocuted. I rolled onto my front and curled up into the foetal position, which is where I stayed until the emergency services started arriving.

I remember hearing cars driving up and down the main road and thinking, ‘You’ve got a seven-year-old son at home, why are you here?’ He could have easily ended up without a Dad. When the first responder arrived, they examined me and gave me lots of different possibilities. He told me that the paramedics weren’t far behind and said, ‘Because of the extent of your injuries, the Air Ambulance has been called’. I struggled to properly absorb anything I was being told.

Then, they lost me. I can only describe it as my ears started ringing and my head went black. Like I was stood in a cold, dark tunnel. The paramedic gave me a harsh slap across the face: ‘You left us for a minute’, he said.

The HIOWAA Critical Care Team arrived and got to work fast. It’s not every day a tonne-and-a- quarter-safe lands on someone, but they knew exactly what to do. My temperature had gone down to 32 degrees, which was dangerously low. They got me on the backboard and told me I was freezing cold: ‘We need to get you on to the stretcher and into the ambulance to get you warmed up.’

They got me into the ambulance and cut my clothes off. ‘We could try to roll you side to side but we don’t want to disturb your body, which may cause further damage. The best thing to do is get you in the ambulance and get some blood in you, as you’re bleeding internally’, they told me. He asked my blood group and, like most people, ‘I have absolutely no idea’ was the reply. The original plan was to take me in the ambulance to the helicopter and transfer me to University Hospital Southampton (UHS). But the HIOWAA doctor said the best bet was to drive me to UHS. ‘I’ll stay with the patient and keep him stable, let’s get him to hospital.’ And off we went.

When I arrived at UHS I was admitted to resus and was given another litre of blood. I lost three litres in total. I had broken my pelvis in two places, ruptured my spleen, ruptured my left kidney, broken three vertebrae in my lumbar spine and was taken for an operation on my pelvis the following afternoon. They told my wife I should be in surgery for roughly three hours. Seven and a half hours later, the surgery was complete. After that operation I sustained chronic pneumonia and a pneumothorax: a collapsed lung.

I was one of four patients within the non-Covid side. Every 24 hours we had a Covid-19 test. It was manic. But they were very good at caring for us. I was bedbound in the Intensive Care Unit for approximately six days before I was transferred up to the Trauma and Orthopaedic Ward, where I remained bedbound for a further three days. While there were still no visits possible, they arranged for a Skype call with my family every day. My wife saw me with lots of tubes attached when I was first admitted into the Emergency Department, but I certainly wouldn’t have wanted my son to see me like that.

On the Tuesday afternoon the doctor who saw me upon arrival discharged me and released me home. They thought I’d be in hospital for roughly six to nine months, not 15 days. My wife and I decided not to tell my son I was coming home. Patient Transport Services picked me up and dropped me off just before he got back from school. He came home to me sat in the living room. He was ecstatic; it was like Christmas Day.

Mentally, it’s probably affected me and opened my eyes to reality. I often think, ‘I could have died’. It’s probably knocked me a little bit. I’m quite a strong-willed man, but it has made me have a second glance at things. I’m 41 years of age now. You’d think I would have had a reality check much younger than this. I understand that I’m very lucky. I don’t think there’s many people who could be crushed by something so heavy and live to tell the tale. There must have been someone looking after me that day.

But it all comes down to the specialists who took care of me. I’m so grateful that the Air Ambulance arrived that day. I think it would have been 50/50 as to whether I would have survived or not.

I must thank everyone who helped me: HIOWAA, the NHS, South Central Ambulance Service and every single doctor and nurse who treated me: thank you. Without them, I just would not have survived it.

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