A MOTORCYCLIST involved in a serious collision near Rothbury believes he would have lost his leg if it wasn’t for the speed of the Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS).
Dan Mackay, 36, from Amble, was riding his motorbike up a blind hill on the B6341 when he had to react quickly after he spotted a cyclist in front of him.
Dan said: “As I got to the top of the hill there was a cyclist smack bang in the middle of my lane. There was a right-hand corner coming up, so I had to get into the oncoming lane to miss the cyclist, but then I realised I couldn’t make the corner, so it was either knock the cyclist off, or lay the bike down and hope for the best, and that’s what I chose.
“When I laid the bike down I was going about 60mph, and then I was sliding across on the wrong side of the road towards the corner.
“I thought, well if there’s a car coming round that way I’m definitely dead.
“As I slid past the wrong side of the road I thought I’m getting away with that, what’s next? And then I saw the wall, the fence and a telegraph pole and thought this is going to really hurt, and then it went black.
“I was at the side of the road and I thought, I’m still alive, that’s amazing.”
The cyclist tried to call for help, but there was no signal, so he headed to a nearby farmhouse to ring for an ambulance.
A first responder from Rothbury arrived on scene and after assessing Dan’s injuries which included a fractured femur, he requested the help of GNAAS.
Dan said: “I badly damaged my hand but at the time I had no idea because my leg was the wrong way.
“As soon as I stopped moving on the side of the road, I took my helmet off, took my gloves off, I’d used my hand as if there was nothing wrong with it, I guess there was so much adrenaline.
“It turns out my thumb was broken and dislocated, my knuckle was split open and my wrist was broken.”
The critical care team from GNAAS flew to the incident, which occurred on 13 June 2021, and assessed and treated Dan’s injuries.
GNAAS paramedic Lee Salmon, who is head of operations west, said: “Dan had crashed and landed in a terrible position in a hedge, his injuries were so significant the road crew requested our help as soon as they arrived.
“Dan suffered a horrific injury with his leg badly broken and worst still horribly angulated.
“We arrived and treated Dan to some strong pain killers immediately, then re-aligned his leg to improve both blood flow and pain. Dan was then taken by us to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle for surgery.”
Dan said: “They put a titanium rod in and I’ve now got quite a big scar on the back of my leg.
“The leg was obviously a massive injury, but my hand took ages to heal. I’m almost ambidextrous now because I’ve been overcompensating for so long. I couldn’t turn a tap on for over a year because my hand was so weak.”
Dan is no stranger to bike crashes as he’s raced motorbikes for years, but this was the first time he’s ever sustained any injuries.
He said: “From racing so long and having so many accidents, I kind of knew what to expect from crashing because I’d done it before, so the crash wasn’t new to me, it’s just hurting myself was new, which I hope to never do again.”
Two years after the crash Dan still gets a cramp in his leg and foot and he’s lost strength in one of his hands, but apart from that he claims everything is just about back to normal.
Recently Dan reunited with GNAAS paramedic Lee Salmon at the charity’s base in Langwathby, Penrith.
He said: “GNAAS are fantastic. Chances are I wouldn’t have my leg without them. I was told if they’d tried to get me to a hospital by road that I probably wouldn’t have had my leg by the time I got there, so it was indispensable for me.”
Lee added: “It was heart-warming to see Dan walk into my office with barely a limp. To hear him wax-lyrical about our help that day and his ongoing care was lovely. It is often the case that seeing a patient brings back lots of emotion and for me Dan was one of those cases.
“Our privilege is one of bestowing expert care and practice on patients in their hour of need, then to have them visit you years later to hear their plans for the future, learn more about them as a person and to meet their family can become overwhelming. I’m so pleased for Dan and can’t wait for him to have a brilliant future living a normal life.”