Rob Porter has dedicated his life to the Fire Service. For 30 years, he has been serving communities with Thruxton Fire and Rescue – who are based at Thruxton along with HIOWAA – and Hampshire Fire and Rescue services.
On a cold November evening, Rob was operating a digger at Thruxton, with his colleague Josh, when disaster struck. Below he tells his story.
As I was digging a trench through the yard to create a pathway, a rock rolled down from the dirt, so I poked my head out of the cab to see if I had enough room to swing the digger around. The digger began to topple over, landing on me and crushing my face against a steel container. The digger carried on moving, dragging me along with it.
I could hear the cracking of bones in my face and, as I lay on the ground, I could feel I was bleeding heavily. I stayed calm, knowing that I needed to stay upright to stem the blood flow.
As I staggered over to Josh, our first aid instructor, I knew I was in a bad way. I could see the horror on his face. I couldn’t talk and all I could feel was the blood pouring down my face.
My dog saw everything that happened that afternoon and, ever since my accident, he won’t leave my side. I go to the toilet: he’s there. I have a bath: he’s there. I go to bed: he’s there. He is extremely protective of me now.
Josh drove me straight up to the Airbase and the crew laid me down in the far corner of the hangar, where I drifted in and out of consciousness. When it first happened, the rush of adrenaline meant my pain wasn’t all that bad, but when I got to the Airbase and saw the crew, I knew I could relax, and that’s when the pain began.
I could feel my head starting to swell. It was so painful that I began to scream the hangar down. The next thing I knew they were pulling the teeth that had smashed during the accident out of my mouth. I was choking on my own teeth.
I have no concept of how long we spent at the Airbase, as I wasn’t quite ‘with it’ by this stage, but when the team finished treating me, they flew me to University Hospital Southampton. En route I came over all hot. I felt like I was burning, as if I was fighting a house fire. Captain Dave told me, ‘It’s going to be a bit bumpy down this slope’, as they wheeled me from the helicopter to the Emergency Department. He was right.
The accident happened on the Wednesday and I underwent an operation on the Friday. I had smashed my eye socket and broken my cheekbone, my nose and my top jaw. I had metal plates put in my jaw and the surgeon told me, ‘By the time I’m finished with you, you won’t even know you’ve been involved in an accident.’ She wasn’t wrong. You can’t even see the scars anymore – well, my wife says otherwise, and that she can see them at the back of my head, but I can’t feel them anymore.
One of the toughest days was my first Christmas. That was hard. Everything I ate had to be liquidised, as I couldn’t eat solids. When I did eventually get some teeth, I was so happy. That was until the day I took them out to have a nap and woke up to see the dog smiling back at me with my teeth in his mouth! He’d broken every one.
Six months later, I went back to work on light duties. I tried to go back to work two weeks after the accident and they told me, ‘No way, you’re not ready.’ I just wanted to get back into work. I love working at Thruxton; it’s like a small community where everyone knows each other.
Since my accident, I have taken a step back. I realise that I must have been tired that day. I used to be a workaholic and I’ve promised myself that I’ll never work those stupid hours again. I’ve become much more considered; I don’t rush things or over do things. I thought, ‘I’ve got to change my lifestyle. I’m only on this earth once.’