A mountain climber who suffered critical injuries in a fall in the Lake District has praised Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital for saving his life.
Dan Oakaby was rock climbing with three friends last August when tragedy struck.
The 36-year-old, from Ottery St Mary in the south-west of England, said: “My equipment failed and I fell 25 metres, hitting rocks as I went.
“Being halfway up a mountain, we had no mobile signal so my friend Tom McConnell had to run down the mountain to raise the alarm.
“The mountain rescue team and volunteer doctors were first on the scene and a few hours after my accident I was airlifted off the mountain by helicopter.
“My heart stopped at one point and they also needed to insert chest drains to remove the blood building in my lungs.
“A decision was made that given the severity of my injuries, the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital was the best bet, so we headed to Glasgow.”
Mr Oakaby has no recollection of the incident and didn’t wake up until he was in hospital.
Around 40 people attended at the scene, including the police.
He suffered punctured lungs, five broken ribs, a fractured eye socket and broke a bone in his hand.
He added: “My heart was also ‘grazed’ from the broken ribs. I owe my life to so many people, not least the amazing staff at the Queen Elizabeth.”
Mr Oakaby spent the next two weeks in an induced coma, with wife Mary at his bedside.
Mrs Oakaby said: “The car journey to Glasgow was awful, but it was only when I arrived at the hospital that the team sensitively went through the extent of Dan’s injuries with me.
“They were nothing short of remarkable. They went above and beyond, not just for Dan but for me too.
“I was allowed extended visiting given how far I’d travelled and was lucky that during Dan’s stay the Covid restrictions didn’t prevent me from visiting every day, firstly in ICU and then HDU. They have our undying thanks.”
Being from rural Devon, Mr Oakaby said he was not used to such large hospitals.
He said: “I was told Glasgow was the best for trauma, and I have no doubt they and the rescue teams saved my life.
“I got the best of the best at every stage. So many people helped put me back together.
“The Queen Elizabeth was like a five-star hotel for me.
“Everyone was amazing – the food was amazing. I had a great view of the city and the helipad, and a buzzer to call for help. To have a private room with shower and toilet; I couldn’t believe the place.
“Mary and I will always be grateful for what the Queen Elizabeth did for us – it will have a special place in our hearts.”
Mr Oakaby was too unwell to make the 444-mile journey home by road, so was flown back to Exeter by private plane.
He explained: “Because my lungs were damaged in the accident, the trauma coordination team worked incredibly hard to organise a private flight for me as I had to be flown at a lower altitude, complete with a registrar and occupational therapist.
“I feel like a very lucky man for the treatment I got from start to finish. So many people contributed to my recovery. The team in Glasgow have even inputted to my ongoing care down here. Their dedication has been incredible.
“I’d like to pass my huge thanks to everyone at the hospital who was involved in my care, together with the Langdale and Ambleside Mountain Rescue and BEEP Doctors teams who we’re keen to fundraise for later this year.”
Doctor Chris Wright, who was on duty at the Queen Elizabeth when Mr Oakaby was brought in, remembers the incident well.
He said: “Dan was very unwell indeed. He had significant head, face, chest, and limb injuries. So much so, we thought he might die that night or be severely debilitated as a result.
“I was really impressed with the care he had had on the mountainside and in the helicopter on the way to us. They did an excellent job in stabilising him on the side of a mountain.
“We worked on Dan all night and it was about 7am by the time he reached ICU.
“He needed the kind of care a large hospital like the Queen Elizabeth could offer, with a variety of specialists in trauma including emergency medicine, critical care, multiple surgical specialties, and physiotherapists.
“It was two weeks before I saw him again and to my delight he was sitting up in a chair and chatting. It was amazing to see; I had been so worried about him so it was great to see him looking so well.
“The most important part of the team was Dan himself. Yes we patched him up but it was his determination which got him through. Mary was a great advocate for him too.
“I am so pleased he is doing well – it was a pleasure to care for him and so satisfying to see him back playing sports.”
As well as care in ICU, Mr Oakaby needed a number of operations – one of which repaired his eye socket and saved his sight.
Mr David Laraway, a consultant maxillofacial surgeon, operated on Mr Oakaby’s fractured eye socket.
He said: “Dan had two issues which we operated on him for. We reconstructed his eye socket using titanium plates and repaired his eyelid too.
“Both issues can cause big problems for the eye, making it sink into the socket. He also had terrible double vision which can be horrible, and would prevent him from driving and cycling.
“If an eyelid scars, it can cause problems with ‘dry eye’ so it was important we prevented that too.
“We were so pleased with the result. Not only aesthetically – you can hardly see anything – but saving his sight.
“I know he was into so many different sports, so it was important to get him back his quality of life. It’s great to hear he is back to work and enjoying sport again. Makes it all worthwhile.”
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