A TALENTED basketball player who was left paralysed from the neck down after a horrific car crash has thanked the Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS) for coming to his aid.
Ifeanyi Nwokoro, known as ‘Ify’, was going to a basketball game with his uncle and friends when the Renault Clio he was a passenger in overturned and crashed into a traffic sign as it left the northbound exit off the A19 leading to Dalton Park.
Mr Nwokoro, 27, from Middlesbrough said: “I remember the car was in the air, and I shut my eyes briefly, then we hit the floor.”
Driving the car that day was Mr Nwokoro’s friend, Sarah Urwin, 29. His uncle Acho Anyigbo, 38, was also in the vehicle along with two others.
Mr Nwokoro and his friend Arnold Katumba had to be cut free by firefighters in the aftermath of the incident, in 2010.
The GNAAS doctor, Rachel Hawes, and paramedic, Colin Clark, attended the scene and treated Mr Nwokoro and Mr Katumba before they were airlifted to James Cook University Hospital.
Mr Nwokoro said: “I remember being cut out, and Dr Rachel Hawes calming me down and comforting me, which really helped me relax. She’s a credit to GNAAS. They literally saved my life.”
Mr Katumba suffered a broken back and punctured lung but made a full recovery. Mr Nwokoro however is now clinically tetraplegic at C4 level, meaning he can neither feel nor control any stimulus or voluntary movement below his shoulders.
He uses a specialist wheelchair which has a joystick below his chin so he can get around without help.
At the time of the incident Mr Nwokoro was studying his second year of Computer Character Animation and coached and played basketball for Teesside University and Middlesbrough Lions.
Although he can no longer play basketball, Mr Nwokoro was determined to not let his injury stop him from obtaining a higher education. After spending six months in hospital he went straight back to university to resit his second year and graduated with a degree in Creative Digital Media before obtaining a masters in International Management.
Mr Nwokoro now writes a blog about his experiences since becoming disabled, and volunteers his time at James Cook University Hospital to provide support to patients who have spinal injuries.
He recently visited GNAAS at their base at Durham Tees Valley Airport with Mr Anyigbo and Miss Urwin.
Mr Clark said: “It’s good to meet former patients and I think visits like this can help to give closure to those who have been affected in an incident.
“It was a pleasure meeting Ify in better circumstances and hear how he’s turned this horrendous incident into something positive.”
GNAAS is reliant on public donations to survive. Last year they needed to raise £5.1m to keep flying. To find out how you can help, please visit www.gnaas.com or call 01325-487263.
To read Mr Nwokoro’s blog visit: https://mylifeinachair.com/