For Tom Hadden (51) the morning of 9th November 2017 began like any other day. Tom headed out to work as a bin lorry driver, a job he has been doing for 35 years, when his day took a turn for the worst when he was involved in a serious road traffic collision.
Tom and his colleague Nigel were driving up a hill when the accident occurred. After the impact, all Tom remembers is his colleague Nigel getting out of the lorry and calling for help, which arrived in minutes. Nigel also called Tom’s wife who recalls hearing Tom’s screams of pain in the background and she immediately rushed to his side.
When the air ambulance Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) team arrived on the scene, Tom was in a great deal of pain as he had sustained a multiple crushing injury to his right leg so they worked to help ease this by providing sedation and advanced pain management for extraction. He was also trapped inside the vehicle and would be for a further hour and a half, as the HEMS team worked with the fire brigade to release Tom. Once free from the vehicle, he was then flown by the air ambulance to Craigavon Area Hospital and rushed into surgery.
Led by Dr Watson, Tom’s first surgery was lifesaving, relieving pressure from his leg injury over 11 hours. He was then back in for more surgery three days later to close wounds and stabilise his injuries before being moved to the Royal Victoria Hospital. Tom has no recollection of these first few days after the accident.
Once at the Royal, Tom underwent further surgery to have an external fixator frame fitted on his leg. He was kept at the Royal for three days before being moved to Musgrave Park Hospital for rehabilitation. Tom is now nine months into his journey of rehabilitation and it is on-going.
Tom visited the Air Ambulance base just outside of Lisburn in the week leading up to the first anniversary of the charity, Air Ambulance Northern Ireland, and was reunited with the medical team who treated him. Tom said: “It has been a long and on-going road to recovery. I owe great thanks to the air ambulance HEMS team as without the initial intervention it could have been a very different ending for me. I would also like to acknowledge the work of all the medical staff and teams in my recovery.”
Speaking after the visit, Clinical Lead Dr Darren Monaghan, said: “We were delighted to welcome Tom and his family to the base to meet the team. We know that the road to recovery can be long and for many people like Tom, visiting the base has been an important part of this journey. Having visitors to the base is something we plan to continue as we enter our second year of operation, so we would encourage any previous patients to get in touch to arrange a visit.”
Six months on from Tom’s accident, the family decided to organise a fundraiser as a gesture of thanks to the charity and coordinated a coffee morning at Eglish Presbyterian Church Hall, with some 700 scones being baked and enjoyed on the day.
Speaking about the fundraiser Tom said: “We were thrilled to see how the community came together to join us at our coffee morning, recognising the importance of this vital service. We were able to raise £7,000, an amount that will fund the service for more than one day, and we’re indebted to everyone who attended and donated on the day.
In particular, I would like to thank my daughter Jill’s boss David Graham, from the hairdressers in Dungannon, who ran the Belfast Marathon for Air Ambulance NI and raised over £800. I would encourage everyone to help support the charity in whatever way they can.”