What happened, I believe, was that when I stood in beside the PTO shaft that had no cover on it, it sucked the loose piece of the overalls and wrapped it around the shaft. Now, the experts will tell you that nine feet of rope will wrap around the power shaft in one second. The evening of my accident my clothes wrapped around the shaft in less than a second. It made a rope effect of my overalls and as they were being pulled off me (this is what took my leg off) it also pulled off the skin and muscle from the shin down to the toes. Because I was thrown over the PTO, my left arm hit a bar with force and I broke the two bones just above the wrist. The bar was just over the power shaft, supporting the hydraulic lines and keeping them up-off the power shaft.
When my wife Jean saw me on the ground, she started to put coats over me and stopped some of the bleeding. I was complaining of the cold on the ground and I wanted a coat to be put under me, she refused to let me turn over as she was afraid, she thought I had a spinal injury. She kept putting coats over me to keep me warm. I kept my eyes closed, thinking if I did not see it, I would not have pain, I could think of something else. Luckily, I was not in pain. A lot of people came to the yard that evening, as some were on the way to a funeral in the next town. To these people who came to help, I will be forever grateful.
The paramedics fought hard to have two ambulances on cover in Portiuncula hospital that week, one of the Ambulances was away out in Roscommon. If I was dependent on this ambulance to come, it would have taken up to two hours to get to me, I was lucky the second ambulance was there in less than thirty minutes. One of the consultants said: “What was I complaining about, sure you could have been put in the back of jeep and brought in to the hospital.” Looking back, how was I going to get into a jeep. I had one arm broken, one leg gone and the other leg I could not put weight on. There was not enough of people in the yard to lift me into the jeep, how many would be brave enough to lift me, in the condition I was in?
As we drove out of the yard, the driver said he was going to turn left and go back through the local town, I said: “No way, turn right and we will get out onto the main road.” As we travelled along the road to Ballinasloe, the paramedic kept telling me where we were, but I could have told him as I knew the road so well. I was not feeling any pain. What was racing through my mind was that I would get the leg reattached and if that did not work that I would get a prosthetic leg.
Once the doors of the ambulance opened, outside the emergency department, I remember thinking that I would be here all night with the crowd outside the entrance. It was not until I was out of the ambulance that I realised that these were all the doctors and nurses waiting to save my life. I never felt pain until two doctors held my shoulders down and two more lifted my right leg and started to put the bones back together in the right ankle. This was pain! That evening I could be heard roaring with pain, all over the hospital, each time that the doctors moved the ankle, which took three attempts. I was lucky there was a good team on that evening who prepped me before I went to Galway.
I was loaded back into the ambulance and transferred to UHG. That evening I had to get a Garda escort out of Ballinasloe because of the heavy traffic, there was no motorway open at the time. I had an operation that night in Galway, my left knee was amputated as there was not enough muscle or skin below the knee to do a flap over the stump. I woke a few days later in ICU with tube and wires coming out of me. Jean was by my side but I could not talk to her because of the tubes. There still was nothing done with my right leg. Out in the ward, after about ten days, the doctor told me that I could lose the right leg due to all the dirt in around the muscle and bones. He assured me that everything would be done to try save the leg, three years after the accident, a little blister came on the side of the leg and when it broke a small piece of straw came out. I was lucky they cleaned it well that evening, and I still have my right leg today.
The next operation did not go so well, this was to take muscle from my thigh and plant it down around my shin to cover the exposed bone on the right leg. The evening of the accident I lost skin and mussel down to the bone, it started just below the knee and finished just above my toes. The flap started to fill with blood, it was decided not to bring me back for an operation that evening, instead the consultants decided to put leaches on the leg. A young nurse was to put a leach on and take it off twenty-minutes later, and another one put in its place for another twenty-minutes. This was repeated throughout the night. I just fell asleep as I could not feel anything.