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Liam Earle has been in hospital since being run over after falling from the bucket of a telehandler in January.
His mother, Nicki Schantz, said: “It has taken a long time to write this and to figure out how to approach the whole situation. There are so many thoughts, feelings and emotions that go through your head that it is difficult to write things clearly. Liam and I and the rest of his family weren’t sure that we wanted to make a statement or indeed tell our story but the more I hear about the tragic accidents that happen with farming equipment the more I think it is necessary to help make people aware of the dangers associated with them.
“On 20 January, I was having a quiet Sunday afternoon when I received a phone call from a local village resident telling me that Liam had had an accident and fallen off a low loader. We arrived at the scene minutes later to find Liam lying in the road with neighbours around and those involved in the accident itself had left the scene. Liam was conscious the entire time and in unfathomable pain. It was about 10-15 minutes before the emergency services arrived on the scene and Liam was subsequently air lifted to Southmead hospital in Bristol.
“As it turns out, Liam was run over by an 11-tonne caterpillar telehandler that had the brakes taken off by the farmer the week before. Liam has suffered unbelievable injuries and the last 10 months have been the hardest 10 months of our lives. Something I wish no family to go through. Liam was left with an incomplete spinal injury, a broken neck, 9 broken ribs, fractures of vertebrae, exploded lower spine and fractured vertebrae. His pelvis was shattered, part of which was put back together like a jigsaw puzzle. Not to mention the several large wounds where skin, fat and muscle were lost.
“His pelvic surgeon, who didn’t think he would survive, described these injuries as a mid-body amputation and his spinal consultant said that in his 20 years’ experience, he had never seen injuries as serious or complex as Liam’s. The investigating officer likened his injuries to a soldier who had been blown up by an IED. Following four weeks in a coma, three months in hospital, seven months in a Spinal Rehabilitation Unit and 18 surgical procedures later (several more surgeries to come), Liam is nearing his discharge date.
“It wasn’t until mid-July when we were told that Liam’s metal work was not infected, that we could be confident that he would survive this and, believe it or not, potentially walk again, if he could work through the pain. To live with that uncertainty for so long is indescribable.
“You keep thinking it will all end soon and things will get back to normal and you will stop living in this bubble but what I have realised recently is that it doesn’t end and this is the new normal.”
“To have to see one of the people you love the most suffer in the way that he has and continues to do, reduces me to tears every time I think about it too much. It’s easy to put a brave face on it for a while but the reality and the memories creep back in one way or another. I’m trying to get out of the bubble slowly and add in one or two things for myself but it’s difficult when I think of all of the things that Liam can no longer do. I still go to the hospital every day. Now it is just to have breakfast and dinner with Liam as opposed to spending all day every day there so that’s progress, I guess.
“People may say ‘it’s his fault’ and yes he did have a few pints and yes he did get into the bucket but it’s not as straight forward as that. It’s difficult to explain. You live and grow up in a rural community and you see these things going on around you; riding on the back of tractors, in buckets etc. At the same time you are not part of the farming community so you don’t actually understand or are aware of the dangers associated with these kinds of activities.
“You could say ‘well it’s common sense’ but it’s surprising the number of people in the local area that have said ‘it could have just as easily been me’ or ‘if I was with Liam that day, I’d have been in the bucket with him’. At first those comments made me really angry but now I see it as an attitude that needs to be changed. It’s seen as a thrill to do something like that, like riding a rollercoaster. The difference though is life and death or life changing injury and it needs to be stopped. I am still angry. I’m angry at the whole situation.
“The tragedy is that both Liam and the farmer will both pay for it for the rest of their lives.”