Biker owes his life to hero paramedic

CHRIS Palmer was in death's clutches after a horrendous motorcycle accident - but he breathed new life thanks to a rare operation performed by a paramedic.

CHRIS Palmer was in death's clutches after a horrendous motorcycle accident - but he breathed new life thanks to a rare operation performed by a paramedic.

The 44-year-old, of Bulwer Road, Ipswich, today owes his miraculous recovery from crippling injuries to the quick-thinking of Paul Gedney.

Lying in the road with broken bones and lacerated internal organs, Mr Palmer was minutes from death after his collapsed lung began forcing air into his chest cavity.

The condition can kill within minutes, so the East of England Ambulance Service medic thrust two tubes through Mr Palmer's chest to allow the air to escape.


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Mr Gedney had never performed the procedure - called a needle chest decompression - in the line of duty and it is rarely done by paramedics.

But Mr Palmer's condition stabilised and after several operations at Ipswich Hospital, he is now able to play with his two children - Ben, two, and one-year-old Ellie - and reflect on how lucky he has been.

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Mr Palmer said: “I really am grateful to Paul. I am really grateful for everything that has been done for me.

“The needle chest decompression is not something I will forget. Through my experience of the NHS, I have had nothing but a great service.”

To show his gratitude, Mr Palmer has nominated Mr Gedney for a Stars of Suffolk Award in the Ambulance Person of the Year category.

On the day of the accident on November 14 last year, Mr Palmer, a manager of social care home in Sudbury, was travelling along the B1071 Hadleigh bypass when he noticed a car in front of him.

He braked, turning his bike onto its side, but he could do nothing to stop his fragile body being sandwiched between the two vehicles.

Left with horrific internal injuries including a lacerated liver, punctured lung, a broken shoulder, smashed ribs and a fractured spine, Mr Palmer stopped breathing twice as medics fought to keep him alive.

At the crucial point of lifting Mr Palmer into the ambulance, Mr Gedney noticed that his lung had collapsed and was forcing air into his chest cavity - a condition that can kill within minutes.

Quick-thinking Mr Gedney thrust a tube - known as a cannula - in between his ribs to release the air. But the first procedure was only partially successful, so he had to insert another one to eventually restore his oxygen levels.

With his life hanging in the balance, Mr Palmer was rushed into surgery at Ipswich Hospital to stop the internal bleeding.

Surgeon David Rae, another Stars of Suffolk nominee for other life-saving operations he has performed, cut a foot-long hole in Mr Palmer's abdomen to re-pack his haemorrhaging liver.

So severe were his injuries, the operation had to be carried out a further two times over the following five days.

Mr Palmer says he remembers very little of the accident or the two weeks he spent at the Heath Road hospital before starting the long road to recovery.

He said: “I found it quite difficult because I was detached from it all. I woke up in hospital and my body was in pain but I didn't experience any of the trauma. It was like a fantasy world.”

The crash also left him with speech problems and difficulties processing information and he has lost two stone as he battles to overcome digestive problems.

And Mr Palmer said he won't be riding a motorbike again. “It is not that I am scared, but I just don't want to go through it again,” he added.

AN ambulance chief today explained the rare procedure carried out by Paul Gedney.

Archie Morson, general manager clinical operations for the East of East Ambulance Service in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, said: “The condition - called tension pneumothorax - arises when a one-way valve is created allowing air to enter but not to exit the lungs. It occurs mainly as a result of chest trauma and can lead to the death of the patient within minutes.

“Treatment involves a process called needle thoracocentesis to decompress the chest. This involves inserting a large needle into the chest which allows the trapped air to escape.

“Tension pneumothorax is a relatively rare event and although all paramedics are trained to perform needle thoracocentesis to treat the condition, many will never perform the procedure during their career.

“It is to the credit of the clinicians involved in this incident that they were able to act appropriately and promptly.”

The life-saving paramedic's view:-

PARAMEDIC Paul Gedney was calm and controlled but faced the fear that his intervention might not work.

Mr Gedney thrust two tubes into Chris Palmer's chest to stop air crushing his internal organs in the aftermath of the crippling accident.

And today he was delighted the procedure had saved his life.

The 41-year-old, who drives a fast response vehicle, had practised the method - called a needle chest decompression - but had never undertaken it in the field during his eight-year career.

Mr Gedney, who was on the scene within three minutes, said: “I wasn't apprehensive but there was a certain amount of trepidation as I was wondering whether Chris was going to survive.

“It was a team effort, but I am just so relieved. With the injuries he had, if the condition had been left untreated he would have died.”

CHRIS Palmer's partner, Leigh Stainsby, had a strange sense that something was wrong when he was late home from work on the day of the accident.

The 33-year-old said: “I was expecting him home at about 5.30pm, but by 6.30pm I got this niggling feeling. Then I received a call from a nurse at Accident and Emergency.

“For the first 24 hours, Chris was very poorly and I didn't know which way it was going to go.

“I saw him just after midnight and he was on a ventilator.

“It was so surreal and it was terrible. I was in shock. I didn't want to stay as I couldn't stand there and stare at him.”

Miss Stainsby, a mental health support worker, said it has been difficult looking after their children, who have also been distressed by what happened to their father.

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