Horror garden fall saw medics tell man he had 20% chance of living a normal life

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A bloke says he’s used “well over his nine lives” after a garden accident left him with a "hangman's fracture".

Doctors gave Dave Saffin just a one in five chance of recovering from his horror accident.

Dave, from Monmouthshire, was visiting a friend on February 1 when he fell backwards over a fence in their garden.

“I landed on the back of my head and my chest was literally touching my nose,” he said, reflecting on the ordeal.

“They [paramedics] rushed me to the Heath Hospital [University Hospital of Wales], where I was told I’d snapped the C2 vertebrae in my neck – which is known as a hangman’s fracture.

“I was told I had a 20% chance of recovery, and there was an 80% chance I’d either be paralysed or dead.”

Car mechanic Dave hasn’t worked since the accident. He told Wales Online that after five weeks of trying “soft collars” to fix his spine, the unbearable pain continued and his father paid for him to see a specialist at St Joseph’s Hospital in Newport.

He’s spent the last month living with a ring screwed into his skull to hold his head, neck and spine in place.

“It’s an absolute nightmare, there is so much pressure on my head,” he explained. “The hospital staff have given me a tool kit and screwdriver to make sure the halo is tight enough every day."

“It’s even more awkward to live in than I imagined," he added. "I’ve been left so frustrated on many nights because it’s so difficult to sleep with it on. The sleep deprivation is probably the worst thing.

“That and feeling like my head is being crushed.”

Dave attributes his recovery so far to “a bit of luck” and going to the gym since he was a young man.

“I do think if I hadn’t done that and my neck muscles were weaker, I probably would be dead or paralysed,” he said. “I feel blessed. I’ve used well over my nine lives, and it’s probably time to calm down now.”

Throughout his recovery he’s kept followers updated on social media, even posting his first haircut this year on his page.

Caldicot Barbers wrote: “Challenge of the week goes to Dave Saffin.”

Dave said: “I started posting because I wanted to try and turn it into a positive. At the end of the day I could have ended up in a wheelchair or dead, so I’m lucky. But there have been some very dark moments over the last three months – especially the first five weeks.

“Worrying and being down in the dumps isn’t going to help me out of this. I just need to accept the challenge every day and try and be as positive as I can.”

After friend Carl Jones posted a JustGiving fundraising page on social media, Dave says he was astonished at how much money the community raised, which he says will allow him to pay his father back for his treatment.

His treatment came to around £1,670, while the halo ring – which Dave will have to wear until at least June – was fitted on the NHS.

“I can’t thank everyone enough for what they’ve done for me, it means a lot,” he added.

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