Dean stays positive in battle to recover

HAVING lost a leg and suffered terrible injuries following a road accident, a Suffolk man has spoken publicly for the first time of his determination to battle adversity with a smile.

HAVING lost a leg and suffered terrible injuries following a road accident, a Suffolk man has spoken publicly for the first time of his determination to battle adversity with a smile.

Doctors feared Dean Atwell, 31, would not survive after his motorbike collided with a van in Bacton on June 9.

Amazingly his life was saved FOUR times during his battle back from the brink.

Speaking from his hospital bed, his voice husky from a recent tracheotomy, Dean revealed to The Evening Star his determination to make the most of his second chance and lead a normal life.

“Basically I should be dead but I have fought and will carry on fighting,” Dean, who lives in Gislingham and spent several years in Stowmarket, said.

“The best way to do that is with laughter and good friends.

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“I'm feeling positive at the moment and keeping a smile on my face.

“What's happened has happened. I don't blame the van driver - it is just one of those things.

“You have got to smile, what other option is there?

“Obviously I get low times but I am strong enough a person to fight through.”

Recalling the moments before the horrific crash, Dean said his last thought was of his mother Sandy.

“I just said to myself 'sorry mum' as I hit the lorry because to be honest I thought I was a goner.

“I remember saying that because my mum and dad had just left on holiday that morning and I knew it was a nasty one.”

Despite flitting in and out of consciousness on the way to Ipswich Hospital Dean says he cannot remember anything after the crash.

He was later airlifted from Ipswich to Papworth Hospital in Cambridge for open heart surgery before being moved again to Addenbrookes Hospital, also in Cambridge, to have his leg amputated.

He was in a drug-induced coma for three-and-a-half weeks.

Dean is currently recovering at Bury St Edmunds Hospital, having been moved from the intensive therapy unit into a regular ward last week.

As well as having to contend with injuries including several broken bones Dean is experiencing phantom limb syndrome (PLS), which means at times he still feels his missing left leg. Around 70 per cent of amputees experience the same sensations.

He said: “Every morning I wake up and as far as I'm concerned I have two legs.

“I have to come to terms with only having one every morning.

“I can feel my leg and foot a lot of the time and even get really strong sensations of cramp in my missing calf.

“Facing up to losing my leg is not very nice but if you smile through it you can get there. It is the only way.

“Music has helped me through it as well. I have been listening to the Red Hot Chili Peppers and they are better than any antibiotic.”

As well as losing his leg Dean has no feeling in his left hand and is coming to terms with the fact he may never be able to resume work as a carpenter, a job he loves.

Doctors have warned him he may not regain sensation in the hand.

Both of Dean's arms were also broken in the crash and his shoulder was fractured in several places.

He had to endure horrendous withdrawal symptoms when taken off the powerful painkilling drug morphine and suffered internal injuries including punctured lungs and kidney failure.

“Apart from that I'm fine,” Dean quipped with a beaming smile.

Despite the hurdles he is making steady progress in his recovery and has started a programme of physiotherapy twice a day which gets him standing on his foot for up to ten minutes at a time.

“I'm grabbing things by the scruff of the neck and fighting. I want to be out of hospital and living a normal life as soon as possible,” he said.

DEAN Atwell is such a popular figure in Stowmarket and the surrounding area that he has received fantastic support from the community.

His friends have set about raising £35,000 to send him to America to be fitted with a state-of-the-art prosthetic limb.

A sponsored fun run from Stowmarket to Hitcham on Sunday has already raised more than £2,500 with more events set to follow.

Dean said: “It is incredibly flattering and lovely to know people care that much about me. I have got such a great group of friends, they are all brilliant.

“I would like to say a big thank you to everyone especially Rick Brown who is the best friend a man could have and has been here every day.”

Dean's partner of four years, Zoe Hinks, 30, says she is amazed with hiss progress.

“He hasn't given up once, he is so stubborn and strong,” Zoe, of Stowmarket, said.

“It is amazing to see him almost back to his old self. He has been so brave throughout it all.”

Earlier this month Dean's parents, Glyn and Sandy Atwell, opened their hearts to The Evening Star and spoke of their son's spirit, resilience and character. They said it was his fighting spirit that had helped him survive.

Dean's life was saved four times during his battle back from the brink.

At the roadside paramedics saved his life and had him airlifted to Ipswich Hospital.

He was transferred to Papworth Hospital where he nearly died undergoing 20 hours of heart surgery including removing a vein from his leg to repair an artery near his heart.

His leg the vein came from then had to be removed after it lost circulation and poisons threatened to infect his bloodstream.

He was then saved again after suffering kidney failure.

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