Press Release - One year on, cyclist devastated in road accident praises 'amazing' work of NHS
John and Suki Smallwood feature in 24 Hours in A&E on Weds 13th April at 9pm Channel 4
In May last year, 43-year-old geophysicist John Smallwood was cycling home from work in central London along the A23 in Merstham in Surrey when a car turned right across him without seeing him.
John, who has three young children, crashed into the side of the car and suffered life-threatening injuries to his head, face and spine as well as a bleed in his brain. He was intubated at the scene and taken to St George's Hospital, Tooting by ambulance, where he was admitted into intensive care in an induced coma.
In Wednesday's episode of 24 hrs in A&E, the severity of John's horrendous injuries are clear from the discussion among doctors attempting to save him. On that first day, surgeons repaired some of the worst injuries, including reattaching his nose, which was hanging by a thread. The programme ends with John being wheeled into surgery but, for the family, it was the beginning of a 4-month stay in hospital to try to get back his life.
Two days later, they tackled his spine and facial injuries. When John did not come around as expected from the induced coma, a further CT scan revealed his brain injuries were worse than doctors first feared.
Before the accident, John, a Cambridge graduate, was a keen triathlete. He also played the trombone and was a parent governor at the local school. He worked for a major oil company heading up a team involved in North Sea oil exploration.
After 10 weeks in St George's, followed by five weeks in a specialist neurorehabilitation wing at St Mary's Roehampton, John was released home. Seven months later he is still not back at work but can manage a gentle jog and is at the point of considering getting back on his mountain bike. The trauma of the accident means even the thought of road cycling is a long way off.
Suki Smallwood, who has put completing her Psychology doctorate on hold to look after John, said they were both extremely grateful for the help of all the medical staff getting her husband to the point he could be released from hospital. She describes the NHS as 'amazing' in everything it did for her husband.
In the weeks following the accident, Mrs Smallwood enlisted the help of Jill Greenfield at Fieldfisher as part of an insurance claim related to the accident to set up private rehabilitative care to start immediately after his discharge from hospital.
"The NHS contacted John on his release but obviously there was a waiting list to continue his treatment," Ms Greenfield said.
"Insurance companies owe it to people like John to offer quick recompense so that the brilliant work of the NHS can be continued in ongoing rehabilitative care it simply does not have the funds to pay for. This is exactly what insurance is for – which leaves the NHS to help others who do not have access to those funds through litigation," she said.
John now has 3 to 4 appointments every week, including occupational therapy, neuropsychology, speech and language and physio. His goal, obviously, is to get to the stage when he can contemplate working again and he is determined to try to regain his fitness.
"At the moment, he can't organise his thoughts as effectively as he'd like. He's lost feeling in the top half of his lip so can't play his trombone and I would say when he's talking, he's more easily distracted than before and loses his thread," Suki Smallwood said.
"Hopefully he will visit his work in the next few weeks. In the meantime, the children, obviously, love having him at home. He's working hard to regain his balance to be able to cycle off-road again."
The driver, who admitted negligently causing the accident, has been fined and banned from driving for six months. She has since written to John to apologise.
For comment, please contact Jill Greenfield:
Jill.firstname.lastname@example.org 0207 861 4557 office 07917 769474 mobile
Nicola.email@example.com 07951 285847 mobile
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Fieldfisher is a European law firm with market leading practices in many of the world's most dynamic sectors including Personal Injury and Medical Negligence, Real Estate, Energy, Financial Services, Government & Public Services, Hotels & Leisure, Life Sciences, Media, Telecoms and Technology. Clients choose to work with us because we deliver commercial, pragmatic and innovative solutions through our exceptional legal expertise and experience, on time and on budget.
We operate across our international offices in Brussels, Düsseldorf, Hamburg, Paris, London, Munich, Manchester, Palo Alto and Shanghai.
Fieldfisher is the trading name of Fieldfisher LLP.