Thursday, May 26, 2016

Impaled in Zimbabwe - 'Spike' is now out of hospital.

For regular Blog readers, this post is not for the squeamish.

 This is a follow-up to the story of Grant 'Spike' Phillips who was impaled on a gate in Juliasdale, Zimbabwe,  on 1st May 2016. Following a wedding in the area, and under the influence of over-indulgence in celebratory libations, he had attempted to climb a gate in order to gain access to a cellular phone tower  - we think in order to climb the tower in order to view the sun-rise, and had slipped and impaled himself. One spike passed completely through his thigh, and the other through his lower abdomen. (If this is the first time you are reading this blog, please check the previous post titled 'Impaled in Zimbabwe - how Spike got his name' - old posts can be found to the right of this one).

This post is being written on 26th May 2016 - some 25 days after the incident. Grant left hospital for the final time yesterday.

In my previous post, I showed a picture of the spikes after they had been removed. At that time I did not have a picture of the gate on which he had been impaled, and off which he was cut with an angle-grinder. 

Here it is:

The above picture was taken the day after Grant was cut off the gate, and you can clearly see the two spikes missing which had accompanied him to Harare in the ambulance as they were embedded in his thigh and abdomen. The bent spikes are a result of him clinging on to the top of the gate for dear life for around two and a half hours - probably and hour and a half before he was discovered, and then another hour as the best way of removing him from the gate was arranged. His upper arm was very badly bruised in the process.

And how high was the gate? Well, once it was apparent that his life was no longer in danger, some of his friends went and posed by the gate for posterity's sake

It was quite a high gate and you can see it had to be cut from its hinges . . . .

Zimbabweans are not so good at expressing sympathy!!!

Of course, things had not been quite so light and jolly when Grant had been impaled on the spikes.

In the background of the following photograph, you can see the tower which (we assume) had been the driving force behind him climbing the gate in the first place. The spikes into his shirt did not penetrate him, but you can just see the base of the one which went through his thigh, and the other through his abdomen is completely invisible - the tips of both of them being hidden by his body.

The following photo was taken before they cut the gate from its hinges and subsequently cut through the spikes with an angle-grinder:

Isn't it amazing what moments in life are captured in these days of cellphone cameras?

Bear in mind that and this was the sight that greeted Spike's mother when she was called from the hotel. Several people contributed to his rescue, and various people brought different items to assist. The ladders appeared out of thin air, and were used climb up to tie him to the top, before they cut the gate from the hinges. No less than 3 angle-grinders appeared - the first being a little blunt, as well as a hacksaw and a bolt-cutter that were never used. Blankets and a canvas rope seemed to materialize out of the morning mist,  and a whole bunch of people assisted in lowering the gate and contributing to Spike actually surviving the incident.

The photos of the metal spikes (removed probably 14 hours after they entered his body) can be found in the previous blog post.

Of course his recuperation involved much hospital-visiting, and my daughters were conned into an awful lot of massaging and mopping of brows - most of which was unnecessary, but appreciated:

Some two weeks after being first admitted to hospital, Grant was allowed out, and came to our house to recuperate. Three days after being released, he started suffering intense chest pains and a marked shortness of breath. We took him to the doctor who found his heart-beat was abnormally low, so he was immediately re-admitted to the Avenue Clinic hospital where, after an angiogram to check his heart and an x-ray to check his chest, he was diagnosed with pneumonia. So back into General Ward, and treatment resumed.

In all probability he had contracted pneumonia while hanging around on top of the gate waiting for someone to find him, but the antibiotics given to him had kept it in check until he was released. He was one sick puppy though  . . .

That, thankfully is all behind him, and though still extremely tender, the pneumonia is a thing of the past.

Here is a photo of Grant walking to the car to head back to the hospital from our house. Part of his problem was that one of the spikes passed perilously close to his nether regions, (too close for comfort, you could say), and that injury became horribly infected. He is on the mend now, but has developed a marked tendency to walk like John Wayne (just after his horse was shot out from underneath him!).

Despite the setbacks, Grant is (slowly) on the mend. His wounds are healing, and his stitches were taken out yesterday - 26 days after being put in. Here are a couple of the wounds photographed the day before he was released - and you can see they are now mostly recovered. The puncture wound on his thigh was from a spike, and the other gash on his belly was from the surgery. (They opened him up before removing the spikes in order to clearly see what organs had been affected. The answer was . . . . none)

I should mention that these are 2 of the 'better-healed' injuries. But the worst ones are also improving, and there will be no long-term or permanent damage.

Despite the terrible wounds and long recovery, Grant was very fortunate indeed. The surgeons, anesthetist and everyone who saw him in his worst hours, could not believe that he had survived what the Roman Catholic Sister who visits the hospital wards insists on calling 'his crucifixion'.

I did mention that his mother had gone grey overnight, and those who know her will be pleased to learn that she, too, is on the road to recovery. Here she is two days ago looking so much more relaxed when she heard the news that Spike was to be released from the hospital shortly:

Obviously anyone with a similar story has been sending him the details, and we are all aware how extraordinarily lucky he was.

Unlike the fellow in the following pic called 'Bokkie' who wasn't quite so lucky. He didn't survive . . .

Ooooooh! Gotta hurt!

So the moral of the story, boys and girls, is . . . . . if you come across a gate or fence with spikes in it - stay away. Someone, somewhere, doesn't want you going from one side to the other, and has made a plan to stop you in your tracks.


Again, on behalf of the family, I would extend thanks to those who have kept Grant in their prayers. Over the past few weeks I have met several people who had been praying for him - without knowing him, or even his name. The support and goodwill he has received has been truly humbling

Thank you.

Have a great day!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Impaled in Zimbabwe - the story of how Spike got his name.

Regular readers of the Blog please note that this particular post is not for the squeamish.

So . . . . this past weekend, my family and I attended the wedding of a family friend. The Wedding was held at Nyanga, and we traveled up on the Friday, ready for the Saturday ceremony. We stayed with some old friends on their farm (hopefully featuring in the next blog) and after a round of golf at Clairmont we dug out our 'glad rags' and prepared for an afternoon and evening of frivolity and fun.

This is my family (minus my eldest daughter who is currently in Cape Town), ready to flick a hoof after a little spit-'n-polishing:

(I'm the one in the tie)

The ceremony was held in the small chapel across the road from the Montclair Hotel, and was perfect. Afterwards the Bride & Groom came out into the late afternoon sunshine to be welcomed by their guests. In a really neat touch, instead of confetti, petals or rice, the guests were all given bubbles to blow as the Bridal Couple came out of the church..

While the bride & groom went for photographs, the guests all wandered over the road to the Montclair, where the wedding reception was to take place. I shall post again on the wedding, but suffice to say it was done extremely well. I had worked at the Montclair some 27 years previously and was a little worried that it might be somewhat shabby, but the hotel was clean, nicely decorated, and a great deal of effort had gone into ensuring everything was tip-top. Effort counts for a lot!

The MC for the evening was a cousin of our daughters' - Grant. Here he is - long after the speeches and meal, urging the 3 main party animals of the evening on to greater heights on the dance floor:

Not such a good photo, but certainly one which depicts the fun of the evening. Eventually the party wound down. We left just after 01.00am, and there were not that many people when we departed.

Grant, though, remained, and things obviously deteriorated, because just after 06.00 the next morning, one of the lady wedding guests went for a walk, and found Grant impaled on the metal spikes on top of a gate at the Post Office across the road from the Montclair.

That is correct - impaled. Properly skewered.

He had been trying to climb over the gate of the Post Office (possibly with the intention of viewing the sunrise from the top of the cellular phone tower located in the yard there - though even he doesn't know what his intentions were), and he had managed to work two of the largest gate spikes in the world all the way through his body - one through the abdomen, and one through the thigh. She managed to stop the small crowd that had gathered from lifting him off the spikes (which would almost certainly have been fatal at that point), and raised the alarm.

I received a phone call at the farm we were staying at asking for an angle-grinder and a doctor. At first I thought this was in reference to a serious hang-over, but it became clear that we had a major medical emergency on our hands.

How long he had been on the gate is anyone's guess - he was last seen well over an hour an a half earlier, and was cold, semi-conscious and gray when found. It then took just under an hour from the time he was found to get an angle-grinder, cut the gate from its hinges, and then lower it gently to the ground with him still on it, before the spikes were cut with the same grinder. One spike went in through his groin area and exited on the side of his buttock, and the other went straight through his thigh.

Not small and made of steel, the weight of his body had bent them at the base. Here they are after being removed some 14 hours later (and yes, the phone in the background is quite a large one!):

If you look carefully, you can still see a small piece of flesh on the tip of one.

(Bet you wish you hadn't looked?) 

Once he was detached from the gate with the spikes still through him, he was covered with blankets and taken to the Nyanga hospital, where a drip was inserted, and the decision was taken to transfer him to Harare. One of the wedding guests arranged an ambulance, and he was given tetanus and antibiotic injections, while his vitals were monitored. Eventually he was loaded into a 4x4 truck, and taken to Rusape - an hour away, where an ambulance met him. 

From there he was driven to Harare, and taken to the Avenues Clinic. For those folk who live overseas, and who may shudder at the thought of an African hospital, while Nyanga was indeed quite rudimentary, the Avenues Clinic would match anything in the world. Here is the Reception waiting area of the clinic:

Once admitted, they took him for an MRI scan to see exactly where the metal spikes were located and what damage had been done. (They couldn't do an X-ray because at that stage roughly 50% of his body mass constituted steel and other processed metals and they would have blown the machine up!!) The one through his abdomen was obviously of major concern, but from the scan you can see that the spike had passed in front of one femoral artery, and behind the other. (These are the tubes you can see in the scan).

Incredibly, there appeared to be no trauma to any major organs, bones, arteries or nerves, and so the decision was made to operate that evening. A general anesthetic was administered, and he was wheeled away into the surgical unit. The surgeons (two surgeons were in attendance as well as an anesthesiologist) worked in tandem and after the operation to remove the spikes, they spent a lot of time with the defibrillation and disinfecting of the path the spikes had taken.

Come the next morning Grant was conscious and able to hold up the spikes - finally on the outside of his body.

Was he lucky?

Incredibly so.

Several people took actions which contributed to him surviving the trauma. Firstly the woman who found him impaled on the gate, and who managed to prevent the onlookers from lifting him off then and there, certainly saved his life. Though slight in stature, she actually climbed up and tied him to the gate until help arrived, wrapped him in her sweatshirt, and then accompanied him first to Nyanga hospital and then to Rusape - all the time talking to him and keeping him conscious. (According to Grant - he remembers her 'constantly barking orders' at him!). Her husband made the arrangements for the best possible ambulance service to be sent from Harare and spoke to a renowned Harare medical practitioner who paved the way for the surgical team and who assisted in ensuring that 2 surgeons would be in attendance. The husband then drove Grant to Rusape (leaving his own children to be looked after by friends) to meet the ambulance - thus saving time. A remarkable couple.

 The local farmer who brought an angle-grinder that worked - after they had tried cutting the spikes with a hacksaw and a blunt grinder. The wedding guest who worked the grinder and eventually freed Grant, and the people who rallied about and helped gently lower the gate with him still impaled on top of it using planks as levers - they all contributed immensely

And it goes without saying that the medical folk involved were of the highest calibre. The Orderly at Nyanga Hospital who administered the first drip and the Doctor who arrived and administered the tetanus and antibiotics were all very competent.

The medical team in the ambulance were thoroughly professional throughout - stopping every 50km to check vitals, and driving slowly when the road became bumpy. They also oversaw his delivery at the hospital, and then sent him 'Get well' cards the day after the operations. Some of the staff from the ambulance also visited him in hospital. A highly professional and well-run operation.

The nurses at Avenues were exemplary, and they and the ward sister were calm and unruffled by the sight of a human kebab. I will also say that the entire facility not only spotless, but sparkling clean. Visitors to the general wards are required to wash their hands with a bactericidal gel, and access to the High-care unit is strictly controlled and limited.

One of the surgeons came to speak to us before the operation and explained what they were going to do. He calmed everyone by saying that they could not see major damage on the scans, and he was fairly certain that all would be well. He sent us home for a couple of hours, and when we returned, the second surgeon came and assured us that everything had gone perfectly. In fact, he said that it was almost as though the spikes had been carefully fed in to miss every important meaty bit possible. There was no damage to the bowels, urethra, bones, arteries or any other organ.

In a perverse way, Grant was probably lucky that he was perched on top of the spikes for well over an hour, because that meant that they worked their way slowly into, and then right through, his body. If they had only gone halfway through, despite the careful handling there would have been a sharp tip waving around inside his body - right in the vicinity of his lower intestine, urethra, femoral artery, and other necessary bits. Although horrific to see, he probably was fortunate in that respect.


But will there be long-lasting consequences? Absolutely there will. But in a strange twist of fate, the longest-lasting consequence won't belong to Grant, but to his mother. She went to the wedding on Saturday afternoon as a brunette, but by Sunday evening a remarkable transformation had taken place . . . . .

Courtesy of her son.

Who now glorifies in the name of "Spike"

In conclusion - thank you to everyone for prayers and concern. It has all been very much appreciated by the family.

And a reminder that all my old posts - over 200 of them, can be found at the top of this page.

Have a good one!