Brave Rob's battle to walk again

VIDEO Brave car crash victim Rob Gentry today told of his determined bid to walk again after suffering a broken back in a horror smash.

BRAVE car crash victim Rob Gentry today told of his determined bid to walk again after suffering a broken back in a horror smash.

The dad-of-two, who spent 16 days in hospital and endured hours of agonising surgery, has taken his first steps on the long road to recovery.

He sustained massive injuries after the car in which he was driving along Ipswich's Woodbridge Road was ploughed into at speeds of up to 80mph by David Mendes, who had been fleeing police.

Today, Mr Gentry lifted the lid on his family's nightmare and relived the pain and torment of the crash which could easily have left him paralysed for life.

The 38-year-old, of Lonsdale Close, Ipswich, also paid a glowing tribute to the “fantastic” medics who have given him every chance of walking normally again.

“The lasting memory of that day was the violence and explosion of energy of the impact between the two cars,” he said.

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“I can remember seeing a white car sliding sideways into my lane at horrendous speed. I can't even recall breaking because it happened so fast.

“I could feel the car spinning around in the road until it came to a sudden stop in the barriers.

“There was heat and lots of fine dust which came from air bags.

“I tried to open the door but I knew I would never have been able to get out of the car because of the searing pain in my back.”

Within seconds of the impact, police were on scene and had arrested 20-year-old Mendes, who had shamelessly tried to run from the carnage he had caused.

Two ambulances and then the fire service arrived, with crews using cutting equipment to remove the roof of Mr Gentry's VW Golf.

Paramedics painstakingly lifted him from the vehicle before transporting him to the already waiting doctors at Ipswich Hospital's Accident and Emergency department.

Mr Gentry's most vivid recollection of his recovery was unbearable discomfort.

“When I was in the car the morphine the paramedics gave me didn't even touch the pain,” he said.

“There was such an unbearable feeling in my back, it was dreadful.”

The problematic operation to get Mr Gentry from his vehicle was compounded by an arterial bleed in his knee, which caused blood to pump from his battered body.

So difficult was his rescue that his wife Jo, who was alerted by police soon after the collision, was waiting at hospital for 40 minutes before he arrived.

DURING his 16-day stay in hospital, Mr Gentry endured a plethora of medical procedures, from scans, to surgery, to operations, to blood transfusions.

His lower back suffered a burst fracture - where the bones splinter into dozens of tiny fragments - and required the careful insertion of pins, plates and screws.

During five hours of surgery, Mr Gentry lost more than two pints of blood and so required a transfusion.

“I was feeling awful, with a temperature, the shivers, fever and sickness,” he said.

“At one point I had four drips - saline, morphine, anti-biotics, and the blood transfusion.

“For a fortnight I couldn't move off my back.”

After more than two weeks in hospital, Mr Gentry persuaded doctors to let him go home to continue his recovery with his family.

Today, he is forced to wear a back brace and is learning to walk again with the aid of a stick.

“I'm on the mend,” he said. “I have had all my stitches out of my leg and the staples have come out of my back, but I'm not under any illusions about how long it's going to take.

“The doctors don't like to say anything is certain.

“The pain killers are effective and I can walk to a certain extent. Sitting up is more painful than anything else.

“If I stay in one position for too long it gets painful and I have to lie down. When I wake up in the morning in bed, I just ache all over.

“Both of my legs are numb from the knees down which was caused by the pressure on the nerves in my back.

“It may be a result of the surgery but they can't say for sure that the feeling is going to go. It could be a long term thing.

“I am taking things day by day. Every day, I feel my legs getting a little bit stronger.”

It is not just the physical injuries he sustained which have left scars. The mental trauma has seen Mr Gentry, a design engineer, suffer recurring and frighteningly vivid nightmares, while he still finds speaking about the crash and its aftermath deeply distressing.

Yet, despite his ordeal, he holds no bitterness - and even describes July 10 as “the luckiest day of my life”.

“I consider my extremely fortunate,” he said.

“A few miles an hour more or a few degrees at a different angle and it could have been totally different.

“I could have come out of it ten different ways and they are all worse than how I ended up.

“The other driver has not entered my thoughts.

“I can't get past the accident itself. Whatever happened before that has not entered my head.

“Even when he is sentenced, I won't be concerned.

“I feel I have been so lucky that I can't think of anything negative to say about anyone.”

Would you like to send a message of support to Rob Gentry? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

ROB Gentry's list of those he wants to thank for helping him at his time of need is endless.

He admits he has been completely humbled by the dozens of devoted medics, physios, firefighters, police and many others who have nurtured him back to good health.

“There are so many people involved who helped me,” he said.

“It's only when something like this happens that you realise how many people are involved in your treatment and recovery.

“I would like to thank so many special people that carry out their work day in, day out without even knowing the profound effect they have on people's lives.

“I would like to thank the police who were first on the scene and for their visits to me and the support they gave to my family throughout my stay in hospital.

“The paramedics for trying to keep me relaxed while treating my injuries when I was still inside the car.

“Both firefighting crews that attended the crash and who cut me out of the car as quickly and gently as my injuries would allow.

“To all the A and E staff for my initial assessment and treatment and, also that day, the MRI/ CAT scans and x-ray teams.

“Both surgical teams that carried out work to my legs and back - it must be second nature to them but to me it's a miracle what they do every day.

“The biggest heartfelt thanks needs to go to all the staff on the Saxmundham ward at Ipswich hospital. Their care, concern and attention to each patient's needs are way past their pay level or job description, from the students, nurses, physiotherapy, occupational therapy to the ward matron and many others - they are all angels in my eyes and I will never forget what they have done for me.

“Finally to my partner in crime, Oliver, in the next bed who was admitted the same day with a broken back, who over the next two weeks without being able to move kept me sane and positive.

“I treasure our friendship and look forward to seeing us both up and about.

“The response from family, friends, work colleges and unknown well wishers via the Evening Star e-mail address has been a great boost to my family and I would also like to thank the Evening Star for the sensitive way they have gone about reporting the accident and the subsequent follow ups.

“I feel honoured and extremely humbled by the people I've met over last three weeks and not to mention a little ashamed that it's taken this accident to release how many special people are carrying out their extraordinary jobs from day to day.”

JULY 10 was a traumatic day not only for Rob Gentry but also for his wife, Jo.

She received a call from a police officer only minutes after the crash, her husband still trapped perilously inside the wreckage of his car.

The magnitude of what had happened only hit Mrs Gentry as she was making her way to hospital.

“I got to the lights at the end of the road and could see part of Woodbridge Road had been closed,” she said.

“I could see all the fire engines and police.

“I couldn't take it in. I thought 'this can't be Rob's accident'.

“I couldn't understand how the crash could be so big because I knew Rob couldn't have been travelling very fast.

“I was in total panic.”

Not having his Daddy around also affected the couple's two-year-old son, Charlie.

“His behaviour changed while Rob was in hospital,” said Jo.

“He knew Daddy had a poorly back and they spoke on the phone, but he couldn't really work out where he was.

“We have always done things together so Charlie found it really hard because he didn't have Daddy around.

“His behaviour changed so much that it meant I couldn't leave him to go and visit Rob.

“Since Rob's been back, Charlie's been so good. It's amazing how a two-year-old can take it all in.”

DAVID Mendes pleaded guilty to dangerous driving when he appeared at South East Suffolk Magistrates' Court.

The 20-year-old, of Orchard Street, Ipswich, received an interim disqualification from driving and was remanded in custody until his sentencing at Ipswich Crown Court later this month.

As revealed previously in The Evening Star, on the day of the incident residents in Kings Avenue were woken at about 6.30am by a mob of up to ten people embroiled in a fight, several of whom were armed with metal pipes and wood.

When officers arrived soon after, the group dispersed. Mendes jumped into a white Vauxhall Vectra and sped away.

The car made its way to Woodbridge Road where it was involved in a collision with Rob Gentry's silver VW Golf near the Case is Altered pub.

Mendes, who sustained head injuries, was arrested at the scene before he was taken to hospital by ambulance under police guard.