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Wednesday 18 September 2019

Skydiver praises medical staff who 'put him back together' after 100ft fall

Skydiver Nigel Allen was badly injured in a paramotor accident this summer - but plans to dive again before Christmas
Skydiver Nigel Allen was badly injured in a paramotor accident this summer - but plans to dive again before Christmas

Donna Deeney

He suffered catastrophic injuries after a 100ft fall that left him fearing he may be paralysed.

But just six months later, thanks to the skills and dedication of the medical professionals at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast Nigel Allen is already preparing for his next skydive.

Nigel needed a lengthy operation to piece him back together after suffering severe injuries in the fall in June.

The 50-year-old was preparing for his descent from a para-motor flight around Whitehead, Co Antrim and was coming into Ballycarry when the wing folded, causing him to plummet to the ground.

A para-motor is similar to a paraglider except an engine is strapped to the person's back, which allows them to take off from a field rather than a mountain top.

Nigel, a self-employed gas fitter from Glengormley, sustained horrific injuries from the fall as he came in to land.

Fortunately, a farmer who had been watching Nigel in the air saw him fall and rushed to his side, where he raised the alarm.

In the Royal Victoria Hospital, Nigel's surgeon began a six-and-a-half hour operation to put him back together again

Nigel paid tribute to the health service and the medical team who worked so hard on his recovery.

Recalling the fall, he said: "There was no wind on the day I had my accident so when the wing folded up I spiralled down to the ground from 100 feet.

"I hit the ground and the first thing I checked was could I move my toes, and I was so relieved that I could because I knew then I wasn't paralysed.

"It was later on I found out the extent of my injuries, which included a broken spine and a lot of other injuries to my back. The right side of my pelvis was completely broken off; my leg was rotated 180 degrees and was pushed 17cm into my intestines; my coccyx bone snapped in two - so I was in a pretty bad way.

"There are 20 screws in my hip, a great big bolt and band, but after six-and-a-half hours in the operating table, the surgeon had me back together.

"My injuries could have left me in a wheelchair. But from the accident, to getting me from a wheelchair to crutches to a walking stick, to walking unaided and back home, took just five weeks."

Nigel praised the medical team who worked so hard to get him back on his feet.

And he revealed he has the all-clear to take to the skies again.

He added: "The fact that I can walk, even if it is with a bit of pain, and can go back to doing what I love doing is all down to my surgeon, Andrew Johnston, my physiotherapist Allison and the rest of the amazing medical team at the Royal.

"My recovery since June has been incredibly fast but I still attend check-ups.

"In fact I had one this week with my surgeon, who agreed to write me a letter that will allow me to go back skydiving."

Nigel's first skydive was six years ago, which was to be a one-off, but he has since done around 500 others.

He continued: "I had it on my bucket list to do one skydive, but I didn't want to do a tandem fall where I would be strapped to another skydiver - I wanted to jump solo.

"I had two instructors with me and they told me I didn't do what I was supposed to do and it wasn't a good skydive.

"I didn't want my one skydive to not be a good one, so I made another one and then I did more and more and kept going, and I have 500 done.

"I am a licensed skydiver and I am a member of skydiving clubs in the Republic of Ireland and Spain, and now I have my letter of clearance from my doctor I am determined to complete another skydive before the year is over.

"The Spanish club have already said I can skydive with them once they get the letter so it will only be a matter of getting a flight over to Spain, getting on a plane and then jumping out of it, but I wanted to check out the possibility of jumping here in Northern Ireland."

Nigel says he wants to be back in action before Christmas.

He added: "My accident was a bad thing that happened but I want to do another skydive before Christmas so I can say in the New Year, 'A bad thing happened but I still did another skydive after that'.

"I could actually paraglide now if the weather conditions were right but I want to do the skydive because that is a bigger goal, because it involves jumping out of a plane and I want to do it before Christmas.

"I am living testimony of the fantastic work that is being done in our health service hospitals. The amount of time and energy the medical staff and physiotherapists have invested in me has been incredible.

"All you ever hear is people complaining about waiting lists and this wasn't right and that wasn't right.

"But I think they need to have someone speaking out about the great work they do every day," he said.

Belfast Telegraph

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