Opinion

I had a paragliding accident, straight into a hill. I cannot express how lucky I feel that we have the NHS.

After a brush with death, reader Hope Elletson says how grateful he is for the NHS.

Hope Elletson and his wife Caroline. Image: Hope Elletson

On the 4th of June, I had a paragliding accident. I was literally spun around downwind, straight into a hill. I blacked out on impact. When I woke up and found myself on the ground, I managed to get out of my harness, get my phone and call my son Roger who headed straight over to help, arriving in around ten minutes.

The walk up to the road was excruciatingly painful, and on the car ride home Roger phoned 999. My wife Caroline was at home and several friends and neighbours expressed their concern as the ambulance crew manoeuvred me into a whole body vacuum mattress for the journey ahead, where I lay covered by Caro’s cardigan for warmth, happy that she was with me as Roger followed in his car.

Hope

For the first 24 hours in Salisbury hospital, I wasn’t allowed to move from lying on my back with the bed inclined at no more than 15 degrees. I was so grateful when the CT scan results came through and the orthopaedic team said that moderate movement was good for me: to sleep on my side was a huge relief.

By the third day I had made it with crutches to the chair by my bed. My daughter Lily had recommended a podcaster by the name of Steven Bartlett, who I now realise is a dragon off Dragon’s Den. The episode I chose was nearly two hours long and is an interview with ex-head of business at Google X (now just called X), Mo Gawdat.

Mo wrote the book Solve Happy, an engineer’s study of the subject of happiness. In the podcast, Mo tells us about the “eraser test”, a thought experiment developed by X where a moment is pinpointed in the subject’s life. The moment must be when something really bad happened to them, and they are asked: “If we had built a magic eraser and were able to go back and erase that event so that it had never happened – would you use it, would you erase the event?

“Bear in mind that if you erase the event, you will erase everything that happened as a result of the event: every friend you made as a result; every experience you had as a result; every learning that you had as a result, and every resilience you developed as a result.”

It gets emotional when Mo asks the same question of himself, because some years ago Mo lost his son Ali to a routine operation, an appendectomy. Mo reckons his book has helped 51 million people to be happier so far. As he ponders the question, Mo can hear Ali, who he says was born “as wise as a zen monk”, saying “No, Dad. Because then you won’t write the book and 51 million people will be less happy.”

X ran the experiment with 12,000 people and only 0.1% wanted to use the magic eraser. 99.9% of people wouldn’t give up what they had gained from a bad event, even something as bad as Mo’s experience.

I went back to bed with a huge smile on my face. When I was still in the emergency room in the middle of the first night, the ambulance crew made the effort to come in at the end of their shift to see how I was getting on. They are two of the many people and one of the many experiences, already from this accident, which I wouldn’t erase for anything.

I cannot express how lucky I feel that we have the NHS: the kindness and professionalism I experienced during my four nights in hospital is something I’ll always remember. After extensive tests, X-rays, CT scans etc, I was released from hospital with seven fractured vertebrae, a broken rib, extensive bruising and a pneumothorax which is an air pocket in the fluid sac which surrounds the lungs.

The doctors expect me to make a full recovery in around three months. During my stay in hospital, I was so grateful to The Stars Appeal for the free wi-fi which I took full advantage of. It was also invaluable to my family when they visited as I wasn’t much by way of entertainment, and it took their minds off worrying.

I’ve long been a huge believer in the health benefits of walking, particularly where the back is concerned. Now I’m placing my faith in that belief to help me build back better.

After a month, I’m able to walk around the beautiful hill town of Shaftesbury in North Dorset, so I think that I can do the 3K Walk for the Wards on Sunday 9th July. I hope that I can raise some money for the Stars Appeal.

If anyone would be prepared to make a small donation, I would be very grateful. My JustGiving page is available here.

Hope Elletson, 60, lives in Shaftesbury and is the founder of PictureFrames.co.uk.

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