Truckie's arm saved by St John care

ABBIE NAPIER
Last updated 08:51 02/04/2014
Gary Stratford
Stacy Squires/Fairfax NZ

RESCUERS: Truck driver Gary Stratford meets the ambulance officers who saved his arm, then his life. Curt Ward, left, Campbell Forsyth and Kerry Mitchell.

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Gary Stratford's arm was dangling by three tendons when he blacked out before emergency services could pull him from the wreckage of his truck.

Some might say he is a lucky guy.

Stratford should have lost his arm that day. A month later he should have died when a blood clot from his injury could have reached his heart.

However, a few weeks ago, aged 68, he went back to work as a truck driver.

Stratford was transporting a truckload of hay in August last year when he overbalanced on the corner of Coaltrack and Telegraph roads near Norwood.

He was going only 20kmh, and the truck skidded a few metres only after it rolled.

That few metres was enough for the driver's side window to smash and Stratford's upper arm to be dragged along the tarmac outside the truck, turning it to mush and yanking it from his shoulder.

"I was having the perfect day up until then," he said.

Fortunately for him, a St John Ambulance was passing the corner at the time, and Stratford received timely medical care which ultimately saved his arm.

"They smashed the windscreen with a rock to get to me. I insisted I was going out through the windscreen because I didn't want them to cut a hole in the truck.

"I was insisting, and then the next thing I knew they were cutting my clothes off me and putting me in a helicopter."

Stratford had four operations, including one to replace the shattered bones in his upper arm with metal pieces and another to start a bone graft to help his bones regrow.

Four weeks later, he was recovering at home when a splitting pain in his side caused his daughter to call St John again. This time, a blood clot was moving towards his heart.

Once again, St John stepped in and Stratford went back to hospital, lucky to be alive.

Doctors thought he would be lucky to get 70 per cent of his arm movement back again. A few months down the track and he has already surpassed their best case scenario.

Yesterday, he met the ambulance officers he has to thank for a working arm and a recent birthday celebration with his grandsons.

Stratford came forward to tell his story in support of St John Annual Appeal, which starts on Monday. St John Canterbury attended 50,000 callouts last year, and this year hopes to raise $1 million - enough to put an ambulance on the road and run it for a year.

Visit stjohn.org.nz to donate.

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- The Press

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