A diver has learned to walk again at a top Wirral private hospital after a life-threatening attack of the bends left him paralysed from the waist down.
Now Steve Hallett has called at Spire Murrayfield Hospital to say thank you to the physiotherapy team who put him back on his feet.
Steve, 52, from Ravenglass, in Cumbria, says he owes his life to the fantastic treatment he received at the hospital and at the North West Emergency Recompression Chamber which is based at the Spire Murrayfield Hospital site.
Following a routine dive in Wastwater, not far from his home Steve, originally from Maghull, in Liverpool, was struck down by the dreaded ‘bends’, decompression sickness, when nitrogen gets into the bloodstream and forms bubbles.
It can be fatal and Steve gradually lost all feeling below the waist and suffered kidney failure during an emergency dash to hospital and a helicopter flight to Spire Murrayfield where he underwent treatment at the decompression chamber twice a day for two weeks.
This was followed by weeks of intensive physiotherapy at the hospital which eventually got him back on his feet and on the road to recovery.
Doctors later told him that without the rapid treatment he would have died.
Steve, who is married to wife Nicola and has two children, daughter Tessa, 23, and a 30-year-old stepson Owen, runs his own business selling fish and game across the Lake District.
He was a passionate scuba diver with the British Sub-Aqua Club for 12 years before his brush with death. He said: “I was on a dive I’d done hundreds of times before. We were down for about 30 or 40 minutes and I reached a depth of about 50 metres but only for a couple of minutes.
“I’ve been deeper and down longer but soon after I came out of the water I began to feel bad.
“It started with a backache and then I became really unwell. I knew straight away it was decompression sickness and how serious it was.
“Luckily my best friend, Tom McCrickerd, a BSAC national instructor, was there and carries an oxygen kit in his van. He put me straight on it and I was breathing 100 per cent oxygen.
“He drove me straight to the West Cumberland Hospital where a helicopter was waiting to fly me down to the Wirral.
“They put me straight into the chamber for hyperbaric oxygen therapy. If you’re treated early enough there’s a higher chance of a successful recovery.”
Steve added: “I was expecting to feel better but I then discovered that I was paralysed from the waist down and my kidneys were failing.
“I spent time at Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral and through sheer willpower I forced my legs and feet to move slightly which was a real lightbulb moment for me.
“I went back into Spire Murrayfield where I began weeks of intensive work with their Physiotherapy Manager, Christopher Buckley, and his excellent team.
“I was doing two sessions a day with them with lots of exercises for walking and balance.
“I’m a stubborn devil and wanted to progress faster than I was capable and by the time I left Spire Murrayfield I was walking with sticks but the help they gave me helped me to make remarkable progress from being bed-ridden, through using a wheelchair and a frame to my own legs again.”
Spire Murrayfield Physiotherapy Manager Christopher Buckley and his colleagues Gary Powell and Katy Hughes looked after Steve during his two-month stay at the hospital.
Christopher, who oversaw Steve’s treatment, said: “It’s incredible to see Steve now because I remember thinking I was going to have to tell him that he’d never walk again.
“But he was been very determined, a bit pig-headed at times and had to have a number of constructive chats with him as he was doing too much on some days.
“In his case it was important to stick to the programme so as to get the maximum output from the minimum treatment as he fatigued so quickly in the early days and quality to his rehabilitation was key.
“We had to get his legs functioning because it was as if they’d forgotten how to walk so we literally had to teach him to walk again using a mix of special physio machines and exercises.
“It was not only physically challenging for Steve but also mentally demanding and we had to do a lot of balance work with him as well.
“But to see him now his progress is amazing – from a physio’s point of view this is as good as it gets.
“To see him looking fit and active again is just fantastic for all the team here.”
Steve reckons he’ll never be able to thank the team at Murrayfield enough and he said: “Quite simply I owe my life to them. The doctors told me that without the prompt treatment I received in the hyperbaric chamber I wouldn’t be here today and without their fantastic physiotherapy I might never have walked again.
“The management at Spire fought the NHS for me to remain in their care while I was being treated and at every stage I received wonderful care. They were second to none, proper angels.”
Steve is recovering well and returned to work almost as soon as his treatment ended and he added: “I’ll never know what caused my accident but as much as I want to I’ve decided I won’t be diving because there’s a good chance of my getting decompression sickness again.
“But I can still get out there on the boat and help and be a part of it and without the team at Spire Murrayfield that wouldn’t have happened.”
For more on Spire Murrayfield Hospital go to https://www.spirehealthcare.com/spire-murrayfield-hospital-wirral/