Duns firefighter David Melrose is adjusting to life at home after enduring more than seven months in hospital.
The Duns dad-of-two sustained life-changing injuries in June last year when fighting a fire at Eyemouth Golf Club. He suffered serious spinal injuries when a beam fell on him as he tackled the blaze.
The accident left David with a T12 incomplete paraplegic injury, meaning that he lost the use of his legs.
Now, after more than seven months in hospital, David is home, and revelling in being back with his family.
He said: “One thing we were always told in the hospital by the staff was ‘You will get there’. At times, you did not believe it, but it is true.”
David first left the Glasgow hospital in November, almost five months after he was admitted, for a two-day visit home.
But things didn’t quite go according to plan, as an arrangement to allow him home for his first weekend leave out of care actually resulted in him being snowed in at Duns for 14 days!
It meant a very steep and rapid learning curve for both David and his wife Clare as to what life would be like in such changed circumstances, but they rose to the challenge and haven’t looked back.
David explained: “At the end of November, early December I asked for a weekend pass for my sanity, to be home with my family. I had been in hospital longer than I’d hoped as being a diabetic my skin broke down at the point of my injury and this meant it took me longer to get into a wheelchair and a delay in learning to use it. But I really wanted to be home for Christmas and this was the first step in the process.
“I was really looking forward to getting home for a short visit but that weekend we had exceptionally heavy snow in Duns and it meant I ended up being snowed in for two weeks!
“We weren’t prepared for that but Clare and I, being the kind of people we are, just got on with it and we actually found it quite fun learning how to do things together.”
David was airlifted to the Glasgow hospital following his accident in July. Remarkably, by December, he was one of three Berwickshire patients receiving treatment there.
Colin Richardson, head of PE at Eyemouth High School, was admitted in October. Colin had been involved in a crash while competing in the Mull Rally, when the car he was navigating collided with a rock.
Then, in December, Gordon teenager Samantha Kinghorn arrived at the specialist unit after she was seriously injured in a freak accident, when she was crushed by falling snow that slid from a roof top.
David explained: “I had been in the hospital about three months; I remember it was a Saturday, about teatime, and I was watching my TV when I heard someone say hello. I looked round and saw Jane, Colin’s wife, coming towards my bed. I automatically thought she had been up seeing someone in the ward, but how wrong I was.”
David asked Jane if she was there to see a patient, and that was when she dropped the bombshell.
“Jane told me that Colin had been airlifted to the spinal unit that day,” David remembered.
“She went on to say that he had been doing a rally up in Scotland somewhere. She said the car he was navigating in had crashed heavily, that he had damaged his neck and that he was in ICU awaiting the results of the test he’d had on his neck.”
David said he tried to reassure Jane that Colin was in the right place, and not to think the worst until they had spoken to one of the consultants.
“The strange thing was that both myself and my wife Clare knew Colin and Jane, as both of our second newborn children were in special care at our local hospital, going through the same thing,” he said.
David had also had dealings with Colin through his work. He told Jane that he would go round and see him as soon as he could.
“I was still not up in my chair, but I was allowed on the prone trolley, which is a contraption that was made up by the unit so patients could lay on their stomachs - it was a way you could get about yourself,” David explained.
“I got to see Colin a few days later; I went round to see him on the prone trolley and we got to speak for a short time.”
Over the next two weeks, David went to see Colin as much as he was allowed.
He said: “In the coming months we both had our ups and downs as you inevitably will have. We would visit each other, or when we where both up in our wheelchairs we would push each other to do more in the gym.”
It was November when David read that a young girl from Gordon had been taken to the Glasgow Spinal Unit.
“That was the same time that I was stuck at home, when I couldn’t get back up to Glasgow because of the snow in Berwickshire,” David explained. “But when I eventually got back to Glasgow I finally met up with Samantha - and I have to say, she was not what I expected to see!”
David describes Samantha as a very bubbly, care free soul. “She was going to take on the world from her wheelchair if she did not regain the use of her legs,” he said.
“I had to admire her courage for what she has been through and what she was going to be going through at such a young age.”
As the weeks went by and the Berwickshire trio spent more time in their wheelchairs, they acted as motivation for one another.
“We would push each other,” David explained. “Like Colin and myself pushing each other in the gym to lift more weights or higher transfers. And Sam and I used to push each other to do more tricks and balancing in our wheelchairs!
“Sam also bought Colin and I a tee-shirt each that she had made up with the words ‘The Borders A Team’ on them, which the rest of the staff and patients thought was quite funny.”
David was the first of the trio to leave the Southern General in February, followed by Colin in April. “Hopefully it won’t be too long before Samantha gets out,” he said.
Now back home for good, with his Duns house currently being adapted for his wheelchair, David said: “You take walking for granted and then when something like this happens it means you no longer can, you have to learn how to cope with that. Everything becomes more complicated, more time consuming.
“It’s an escalator of emotions really and without a doubt, I’ve had times where I’ve been really frustrated. The most challenging thing is your mind and how you deal with the challenges as they come. I wasn’t geared up to be in bed for as long as I was. I would build myself up for doctor’s rounds then be knocked down when told something had gone wrong that would delay my progress.
“But now I’m home I find it easier because I have Clare with me and my children and a fantastic support network of friends and family and work colleagues. Without a doubt you feel like you are starting over again, but I’m raring to go.
“It’s very important that Clare and I, and our children Leigh and Nathan, put on record our sincere thanks to everyone for their good wishes and their get well cards and letters. Also to our employers for their understanding, and to the local people and fire personnel for their support in the fund raising events that have been held for my Rehabilitation Fund.”
David said the support had been “unbelievable”, from local golf clubs, pubs and clubs, to two young lads doing a sponsored cycle run, and many other events that have taken place.
He added: “I would have liked to have thanked everyone personally for what they have done but it would take ages to do so and I would hate to miss anyone out. So once again thanks to everyone.
“Life, though different, is something I very much appreciate after all I’ve been through, which I hope is something folk will be pleased to hear!”