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!

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