South West Wales

Speared driver John Helliwell praises Morriston medics for saving his life

Media captionJohn Helliwell is urging people to use their seatbelts in cars

A man who was speared through his body by a metal rail in a car crash has praised hospital staff for saving his life.

The rail punched through the back of John Helliwell, 32, from Gowerton, Swansea, and out of his abdomen.

As the car was still moving, the rail came straight back out of his body. He also fractured his pelvis.

Doctors at Morriston Hospital said Mr Helliwell's injuries were bad but could have been a lot worse.

Birthday presents

The accident happened near Swansea in early February - on the birthday of Mr Helliwell's wife Emma.

He was driving from the family home in Gowerton to work at Penclawdd when the single-vehicle crash happened on the B4295 at 23:00 GMT on Sunday, 2 February.

Five weeks later Mr Helliwell has been able to return home after life-saving surgery, although it will take about a year for him to recover totally.

He said: "I'm lucky to be alive. When they got me to the hospital it was touch and go for a while, but the care I've received has been absolutely phenomenal."

Media captionJohn Helliwell spoke to Oliver Hides on BBC Radio Wales

Mr Helliwell cannot remember anything of what happened on the day of the accident, other than his children giving his wife her birthday presents and cards.

Mrs Helliwell added: "The surgeon told me later that when they put him down on the operating table, they could see the table through the hole going through him,

"It was horrific. They told me later they had never seen anything like it.

"It was just one millimetre away from his vital organs. He was very lucky."

Mr Helliwell spent five days in intensive care and 18 days in the high dependency unit before being transferred to a hospital ward.

His wife added: "They saved his life. We're in no doubt about that. If it wasn't for them there is no way he would be here now."

'Bounced back'

Reconstructive surgery was performed by three surgeons at Morriston.

Image caption Dai Nguyen said Mr Helliwell's fitness was helping his recovery

Consultant plastic surgeon Dai Nguyen said Mr Helliwell's injuries were both severe and unusual.

"What went through from his back to his abdomen didn't hit a major organ or damage his bowel, which is incredible. It could have hit a blood vessel, but didn't.

She added: "He has made really good progress. I think that is because he was a very fit young man.

"He has really bounced back. He has been a great patient and well motivated in his rehabilitation."

Mrs Helliwell said they are still trying to trace two women - one a nurse - who found her husband after the accident and called an ambulance, so that they can thank them.

And to thank the hospital staff who saved her husband, she is organising a raffle and plans to hold a fundraising evening, with proceeds will go to the Morriston Hospital ITU Trust Fund.

"We're both so appreciative of what they've done - the doctors, the nurses, everyone in general has just been fantastic," she said.

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