A woman left fighting for life after a horrific head-on car crash caused her to suffer multiple broken bones and injuries to many major organs has spoken of her determination to make a full recovery.
Angela Menzies, 57, was lucky to survive the smash when her Vauxhall Corsa was hit in the early hours of the morning by a van which veered onto her side of the road as it came around a corner.
The accident left Angela in an induced coma for a month, and her family praying for her survival.
Quite amazingly, survive she did, but she awoke to discover she faced another major battle, this time to overcome the extensive, life-changing injuries she had suffered.
“I remember nothing at all of the crash. All I know is that I’d set off for work and it was dark as it was 4am in the morning. The next thing I knew was when I came out of the coma and almost every bone in my body had been broken,” she said.
“Looking back now, they must have been horrific times for my family. They were the ones who knew everything that was happening during that first month. They were twice called in to hospital to say their goodbyes. I was oblivious to it at that time. It must have been so hard for them.
“It has been so difficult to understand and accept what happened to me, but for one reason or another the other driver, who broke his leg, never faced criminal proceedings. That makes me angry and I have made a complaint to the police, but now I have to focus on me and my recovery.”
Four weeks in a coma and four months in a hospital after accident
Angela, who spent a lot of time travelling by car in her role as a National Relief Manager for retail group McColl’s, suffered compound fractures to both legs, fractured both her knees and hips and broke nine ribs in the crash.
She also fractured her pelvis, sternum, right clavicle, toes on her right foot, punctured her lung and suffered a stomach injury as her seat belt caused tissue damage, requiring stapling.
The impact of the collision also meant she suffered fractures to both wrists – one which was not discovered until a month after the accident as she’d not been in a position to try moving them.
She spent more than four months in hospital, initially having being rushed to Bedfordshire Hospital, before being transferred to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, where she was in an induced coma for a month.
When finally out of the coma she was transferred nearer to home at Bradford Royal Infirmary, where she was on 11 different daily medications, before spending just over a month in a care home for respite. She then spent close to another month in St Luke’s Hospital for physiotherapy. She returned to her three-bedroomed home in December 2016, and today, more than a year later, feels she is still undergoing extensive surgery in a bid to start taking her first steps again.
Civil legal claim crucial in securing vital support when returning home and starting recovery
Finding life at home with such extensive injuries extremely difficult, friends suggested to Angela and her husband John that they should seek legal advice.
It led to them turning to Hudgell Solicitors for help, and Solicitor Samuel McFadyen, who specialises in representing people with serious injuries, was happy to take on her case.
“It was a major struggle once I was back home. I couldn’t move at all and was just stuck on the sofa. I’d have nightmares where I would see flashing lights, and I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Distress Order (PTSD),” said Angela.
“As someone who was always so busy in my work and home life I was frustrated at not being able to do anything.
“My family were brilliant from the start though. My husband John went part-time in his job at a warehouse and my sister would come to be with me every day when he had to leave. My children live nearby and they were great too, as were my employers who continued to pay despite me being unable to work.
“However, being in the situation I was does put a strain on things. It would be particularly difficult as I couldn’t care or play with my grandson, and on a night I’d be on my own on the sofa.
“’I’ve managed to keep myself busy as there has always been somebody with me, and I enjoy crocheting, buy you still feel isolated at times, and a burden on others when you rely on them for so much. Things certainly started to change for the better though when Sam became involved.”
Assessments highlighted depression, severe stress, fatigue and high levels of pain
Keen to ensure a full and complete rehabilitation package was provided, Mr McFadyen made representations to the insurers of the van driver, Aviva, who coincidently, were also Angela’s insurers.
And despite the matter of who had been at fault for the crash still being investigated, Aviva agreed very early on to the joint instruction of a case manager, Sarah Cooke of Bush & Company Rehabilitation, to complete an immediate assessment of her needs and then oversee a complete support package, under The Rehabilitation Code.
Initial assessments found Angela to be suffering high levels of pain, significant fatigue, extreme depression and severe stress.
With the approval of insurers to fund treatment, she was referred to psychological services for support with regards to her depression, stress and anxiety, and for occupational therapy for assessment of fatigue, sleep and hygiene.
All issues impacting on her quality of life and recovery were considered, including bed positioning, pain management, kitchen activities, housing adaptations, and personal care and hygiene issues.
Angela added: “All of a sudden, everything I needed was taken into consideration and provided for me.
“Plans were made to help me and I was given a special self-powered wheelchair to help me get around. Sam arranged for special chair cushions and bed overlays to help me be more comfortable and prevent sores developing as I couldn’t move, and simple things to help such as rails being installed along the garden fence and outside the door, to help me.
“It made a massive difference, and when things like that start to happen, you do start to look forward with more positivity. You appreciate people are there for you and helping you.”
Solicitor recognised need for complete package of rehabilitation support
Mr McFadyen said: “It was clear from my very first meeting with Angela that she faced a very long and difficult recovery journey, and she needed the right programme of dedicated physical and psychological support alongside her ongoing medical treatment.
“At that time she was unable to sit for long due to the pain she was in and was unable to stand for more than 30 seconds as she could only bear weight on her left side. She was relying on her husband to dress her, and help her shower once a week.
“Thankfully, the insurers very promptly agreed to jointly instruct a dedicated case manager, and approve all recommendations with regards to the funding of home adaptions and improvements, treatment and specialist equipment identified as being required.”
Initial aims of the support provided were to increase Angela’s confidence and to be less reliant on family supervising her, and to help her with coping strategies to manage her stress, depression and anxiety levels.
Rehabilitation goals were agreed to provide support to ensure she was best placed to manage the pain and discomfort in bed, to allow her to have a minimum of six hours sleep per night within six months.
Further goals included regaining independence as a high priority, focused around helping her reach a stage where she could prepare a drink and snack for herself, be able to go to the toilet upstairs and downstairs safely and independently, and be able to wash and dress herself.
Changes were recommended and made to the family’s three-bedroomed semi-detached home, such as door widening between her lounge and kitchen, the use of an ergonomic stool for working at her kitchen top, low-level reachers to help her pick up objects round the house, and new rails on the stairway have all been aimed at helping Angela develop more independence in the weeks and months ahead.
However, having made positive progress and a successful hip replacement operation, Anglea has suffered recent setbacks to her progress.
A CT scan revealed attempts to repair her broken left leg have been unsuccessful, with a hole developing in her bone which means she will now face further surgery and stem cell treatment, in which cells will be taken from her spine in an attempt to encourage it to finally heal.
She has also suffered an infection in her right leg which now needs to be completely cleaned out as it has damaged her muscles and left a metal plate which had been inserted for strength just under her skin. Despite two previous procedures, she is also needing further wrist surgery.
Although still incredibly difficult, Anglea is still looking ahead with positivity despite the uncertainty, with the continued support of her Case Manager and treating team.
“There hasn’t really been a discussion as to whether I’ll make a full recovery, but that is what I am aiming at in my mind,” she said.
“I asked my doctor when the problems with my legs were discovered recently if I’ll be able to walk independently again and all he has said is that we’ll have to wait and see. That is what I am determined to do though.
“Having had my hip operation I was hoping to be able to kick on with my physiotherapy sessions, but I am having to wait until my legs are stronger and the bones are better healed. It all takes time.”
Mr McFadyen added: “Angela is an inspirational person, as she rarely complains about her situation and has a great determination and focus to overcome it.
“The joint appointment of Sarah as the dedicated case manager to oversee Angela’s rehabilitation and needs has been key, and now the focus is on helping her make consistent progress, but at a pace that is suitable to her.
“I am really pleased we have been able to provide support to her and that we will continue to do so, and it has been particularly pleasing to see her psychological improvement over the past few months.
“Her very significant injuries and ongoing treatments and surgeries may mean she needs brief breaks in therapy at times, and she still has a long and difficult time ahead, but she now has people providing aspects of support and help in all areas, giving her the best possible chance of making the best possible recovery.”