Monday 5 December 2016

'I was impaled on the tree and I thought this is it, I am going to die'

It took 29 operations before farm manager Aengus Mannion regained full mobility after a horrific farm accident

Ken Whelan

Published 08/12/2015 | 02:30

Aengus Mannion was involved in a freak farm accident that confined him to a wheelchair before he made a full recovery. Photo: Lorraine Teevan.
Aengus Mannion was involved in a freak farm accident that confined him to a wheelchair before he made a full recovery. Photo: Lorraine Teevan.

It all started with a race between Aengus Mannion on his teleporter and a few head of cattle heading for a gap in the hedge which leads to the main Navan to Slane Road.

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"I knew I had to get to the gap before the cattle because otherwise they would be all over the main road, and when I prevented that happening, I just got off the teleporter and said to myself, 'phew that was lucky.'

"Then just as quickly, one of the animals shunted the teleporter and I was suddenly hit by the bucket on the teleporter at waist high and impaled into a tree.

"I shouted for help and after about 10 minutes the McBrides, who live about a quarter of a kilometre away, arrived and called the emergency services. I was in the tree for about an hour and when I was freed by the emergency services I was rushed to Our Lady of Lourdes in Drogheda.

"At first the doctors thought my legs would have to be amputated but one of the surgical team noticed the nerves in my legs were still intact so I was then rushed to Beaumont in Dublin where I underwent my first eight hours of surgery.

"That's what I was told. I was drifting in and out of consciousness all the time and was in a state of shock with blood all over me.

"At one stage when I was on the tree I thought to myself, 'this is it, I am going to die' and I was very calm about the situation," he remembers.

The observant member of the surgical team in Drogheda saved Aengus's legs but it took the next four years and 29 operations along with countless therapy sessions to get them working properly again.

Depression

Aengus, who is heading up to the big 50 and is a native of Sligo town, was managing a cattle production unit at Stackallen in Co Meath when the accident happened in 2009.

He says he would never have survived his horrendous injuries and prolonged recovery were it not for the positive help of his family and friends.

He says he was lucky -many accident victims just withdraw from family, work and everything else because they feel useless, which in turn leads to further problems like depression. "It's understandable. You're fine one minute and then everything has changed.

"I remember often sitting in my wheelchair, smoking cigarettes and looking out the window and thinking to myself that this was going to be the rest of my life. This was the best it was going to get," Aengus recalls.

"But my family, especially my mother Gertrude and brother Aidan, kept me positive throughout.

"Aidan got my car adapted and made sure I went out and met people. He would insist on bringing me to different pubs every week to meet new people and made sure I kept in contact with my farmer friends.

"The ambulance crew, doctors, nurses, hospital porters, just everyone in the four hospitals I have attended since 2009 ( Navan, Beaumont, Sligo and Drogheda) have been outstanding. Simply outstanding. I just can't understand why so many people criticise our health service these days when I think of how they dealt with my case.

"But the positive backing from the family was also hugely important," Aengus says.

He has now joined the Embrace organisation which helps those bereaved by farm accidents.

The organisation is expanding its services to include those injured in farm accidents whom Aengus describes as the 'forgotten people' of farming.

"Many of those involved in accidents, whether it's from tractors, livestock or falls, take a step back from their farms afterwards.

"But these are people with years of experience of farming and because they lose their confidence after the accident, the industry loses the benefit of their immense experience," Aengus points out.

He wants to change this negative attitude and along with Embrace, he is now lobbying the farm organisations and Departments of Health and Agriculture to come up with programmes which will tap into this reserve of farming knowledge and ability.

As a master of change himself, don't be surprised if Aengus wins this campaign as well.

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