52 year-old miner, Richard Hodgkinson from Mansfield was just finishing his early morning shift at Hatfield Colliery in Doncaster when an accident took place that changed his life forever. Here the courageous father-of-two, tells his story:
“I was 20 minutes from the end of my shift at the colliery in June last year when there was an almighty bang and I was struck by a high-pressure hydraulic hose that came loose from overhead supports.
“It hit me just above my left hip and sliced eight inches into me pumping hydraulic fluid into my body, cracking every rib and puncturing my lung. The pain was excruciating. The sheer impact itself knocked me right off my feet and when I tried to move, I couldn’t move my leg and I was really struggling to breathe. I was terrified.
Richard was unable to be given any morphine due to his chest injuries and a massive operation was now underway to get him the five kilometres out of the mine and up to the waiting paramedics on the surface. An air ambulance had been called as his injuries were life threatening and as the paramedics arrived, word was that he was still 30 minutes away and deteriorating fast.
To send the paramedics into the mine would have delayed getting Richard out even further so a decision was made to just get him out of there as quickly as possible and get him to Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital which is a major trauma centre. His extensive injuries had been radioed ahead and a full trauma team were assembled waiting for him.
“When I was traveling out the mine in the hands of fellow miners and basic trained first aiders. All I could think of and pray for was seeing the highly skilled paramedics.
“As I was being taken out of the colliery I noticed that a lump had appeared on the side of my body. By the time we got to the surface it was up to my armpit and the size of a football, I was told that it was my lung. It was just so frightening and I was struggling to breathe.
As Richard reached the surface the paramedics set straight to work on him as he required immediate surgery. An incision was made in his chest to release the pressure and help him to breathe, however his breathing was still uneven and the paramedics were worried by his low blood pressure and internal bleeding.
“I remember being airlifted to the Northern General Hospital by air ambulance and once I was strapped in it took them just eight minutes to travel the 30 mile journey which would have taken around 50 minutes to an hour by land ambulance. I have no doubt whatsoever that the speed of the journey saved my life,” said Richard.
“I was conscious the whole time in the helicopter and could hear the paramedic telling the pilot to put more coal in the fire, meaning to get me there as quickly as possible.
“I have always been petrified of flying but knowing I was going to be put in a helicopter did not bother me. As I laid in the helicopter looking out of the window at the lovely clear blue skies all I could think about was getting to the hospital as quickly as possible as my breathing was getting worse.
“I will always remember the paramedic looking over to me showing me eight fingers telling me how long it will take to get to the hospital.
“I was still conscious when we landed and I remember being transferred to a waiting land ambulance to take me to the major trauma centre, I could feel every bump and it was just so painful. By building the new helipad it will take all that away as the helicopter will land right next to A&E and patients will be carried by trolley straight into the department. I dread to think what would have happened if I’d had to wait for this ambulance to arrive. All I could think about was getting to A&E and about what my wife would say.
“Around 90 per cent of the muscles in my hip and the top of my leg were damaged and muscle and nerves in my back were contaminated by the hydraulic fluid. I was placed in an induced coma for two and-a-half weeks and underwent nine operations, eight of these were lifesaving.
“I spent a total of five weeks on the critical care unit and two weeks on a ward before being allowed back home to be cared for by my wife.
“The accident has totally changed my life. It happened without warning. Before the accident, I would see an air ambulance flying over and never think in a million years that I would need them, and then bang out of the blue it happened.
“One of the paramedics later told me that I was one of the most critically injured patients she had ever seen and that I survived against all the odds.
“I am so grateful for the care and support I received during my rescue and time spent in hospital. If I had gone by road ambulance to hospital I would not be here today, it’s that simple as I wouldn’t have received the specialist treatment I needed that quickly. Every vital second counts.”
Richard's wife Jayne said: “When the police called at home that Saturday morning I first thought that Richard had been involved in road traffic accident.
“When they started explaining it had actually happened down the pit I just felt so frightened and panicked.
“I was told that they were flying him to Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital so rushed up there with my children. I am eternally grateful for the air ambulance and paramedics who literally saved my husband’s life on that day. If it had not been for their quick response and how quickly they got him to the specialists at the hospital our life would be following a very different story.”