By Liana Jacob
THIS MAN woke up from a two month-long coma to find THREE of his LIMBS had been AMPUTATED after a motorcycle accident left SIXTY PER CENT of his body covered in THIRD DEGREE BURNS – and despite medical staff LAUGHING in his face when he asked if he would walk again, he has PROVED THEM WRONG.
Data centre operations assistant, David Gilroy (45) from Midlothian, Scotland, UK, was riding back home on his motorbike after a long day at work in February 2015 when out of nowhere a car emerged from a side road and crashed into him.
The breaks locked in place which caused him to lose control of his bike which skidded on the road towards the car. The impact of the crash caused the bike and car to burst into flames and David found himself stuck underneath the car.
Luckily, two other drivers who were passing stopped at the scene and took him to the nearest hospital where he was treated. With third and fourth degree burns over 60 per cent of his body, he was transferred to the burns unit at the Belgian military hospital in Brussels, where he is currently living.
Due to the severe extent of his injuries, he was put in an induced coma and during this time doctors were forced to amputate his right arm and both of his legs as they were ‘beyond saving’. Altogether he has undergone 26 operations, most of which were skin grafts and three amputations.
He spent the next seven months recovering in the hospital and was in a coma for two and a half months of that time. He was then moved to a rehabilitation unit in Brussels and spent a further seven months learning to adapt to his new lifestyle. Having to use a wheelchair to get around, he was still left with severe wounds that prevented him from being able to use a prosthetic leg. He asked the orthotist whether he will ever be able to walk with prosthetics, and he said no while laughing.
This reaction motivated David to work hard to help heal his leg and in January 2017, he was readmitted to the unit where they fixed a prosthesis on his legs and arm, which means he is now able to walk on them.
Even though it’s been a long journey, David has kept a positive outlook on his experience and has used his energy to get back to a normal life.
“Riding home from work, a driver coming the opposite way did not see my motorcycle and turned left across my lane; locking the brakes, I lost control of the bike and slid on the road towards the car,” David said.
“The impact caused the bike and car to catch fire and I was stuck under the car; two other drivers stopped and are the ones I, in part, owe my life to.
“I had third and fourth degree burns to over sixty per cent of my body and I was transferred to the burns unit, after first receiving an MRI scan to check for neurological damage.
“I’ve had around twenty-six operations, most of which have been for skin grafts; with the high percentage of my body having been burnt, I would not have survived the aesthetic of the first operation, as the amount of fluid that the anaesthetist would have to use would be more than the body could take.
“The surgeon then made a decision based on the severity of the burns that my right arm and leg were beyond saving, and they had to amputate them directly.
“One of the first operations performed was the formation of a colostomy to avoid any infection from my waist to the burns on my bum.
“Later it was seen that my left foot was beyond saving and that was also amputated. Most of the surgeries were performed during my induced coma and I had no knowledge of this until I was brought out of the coma.
“The process of being brought out of the coma has left me with a strange relationship to the news of the accident and the operations.
“After the accident, I spent the next seven months at the burns unit, two and a half months in a medical coma while most of the surgeries were undertaken.
“I was then moved to the medium care unit when most of the skin grafts were successful and I was at a lesser risk of infection.”
David spent eight months having to adjust to life in a wheelchair until his leg healed before his prosthetics were fitted.
He says that having to give up on his hobbies such as camping and riding his motorbike before the accident was difficult to accept but he has learned to adapt to his new life with the help and support of his friends and family.
“I left Saint-Luc hospital in May 2016, fifteen months after the accident, on a wheelchair as I still had wounds that stopped me being fitted with a prosthesis on my left leg,” he said.
“At this time the prosthetists did not think I would walk and be using a wheelchair for the rest of my life. I still remember the prosthetist laughing when I asked if I would be able to walk with the first prosthesis I was given.
“Being told you won’t be able to do something is a great motivator to do it, having someone that is meant to be helping you achieve this goal laugh is like sticking a rocket to your motivation and made me determined to succeed.
“I was readmitted to Saint-Luc in January 2017 once my left leg healed and was able to get a prosthesis fitted.
“Up to this point I had a prosthesis for my right leg with a fixed knee, an orthosis for my left leg that did not allow me to use my knee and an aesthetic prosthetic on my right arm, that would fall off every now and then.
“This meant that I only had full control of my left arm and walked with stick legs. In being readmitted to Saint-Luc January 2017 I was now fitted with a myoelectric arm prosthesis that allows me to control an electric elbow, wrist and hand using sensors placed on the bicep and triceps.
“I was also able to walk using my left knee, though not very far as it had not been used in two years, the muscles had faded and had to be strengthened back slowly.
“I have pushed myself to be active and to recover the best that I can; I only look to the future and what can be helped now.
“When I have an issue that I can’t find an answer to I turn to the internet to see if other amputees have found a solution. There is a large community willing to help and I try to give back to that community as much as I can.
“One person that stands above all others is my girlfriend who has been positive throughout this journey and still supports me through everything and all the changes and challenges it has brought to her life.
“All the staff at both the burn Center and Saint-Luc have been supportive, and I visit them regularly to show my improvements and let them see how I am living thanks to their work.
“My life has no resemblance to what it was before; living with three amputations has meant I’ve had to rethink my activities and hobbies.
“While before I enjoyed camping and would take a long ride on my motorbike and camp out during the weekends, now I can’t even sit on a bike; this is the biggest change, the loss of my biggest hobby.
“Everything else is just learning to live around the limitations and still live, though I still struggle to think of what makes my life worthwhile.”