The wife of a cyclist horrifically injured when a car turned across his path as he rode home today praised the NHS for a “fabulous job” in saving his life.
John Smallwood, 43, an exploration manager at a central London North Sea oil and gas company, was placed in an induced coma for three weeks after suffering head, face and spinal injuries and a bleed to the brain.
His treatment at St George’s hospital, Tooting, which included surgery to re-attach his nose and weeks in intensive care, will be shown at 9pm tonight [Weds] on the Channel 4 documentary 24 Hours in A&E.
His wife Suki said he received “amazing” care. She told the Standard: “The NHS have done a fabulous job. There is a lot in the press in the moment, with people looking at the attitude of doctors, but I just think people work so hard.
“These guys did everything for us. John’s is a good news story. Having been in hospital for 16 weeks, I know there are a lot of stories that are not so great, but the doctors keep smiling, the nurses keep smiling and the people who clean the floors keep smiling.”
The collision happened last May. Mr Smallwood, father to three young children and a keen triathlete, was on a training ride on the A23 in Merstham, near his home in Surrey, when a young woman driver turned her Fiat Punto across his path without seeing him.
When Mr Smallwood, a Cambridge graduate, did not come round as expected from the induced coma, doctors realised his brain injuries were worse than expected.
Ten weeks in St George’s were followed by more than a month on a neuro-rehabilitation wing at Queen Mary’s hospital, Roehampton. His lawyer, Jill Greenfield, of Fieldfisher, had to fight “tooth and nail” to secure an interim pay-out from the Fiat driver’s insurance firm to fund subsequent private rehabilitation to prevent the NHS care being in vain.
The driver, who the Smallwoods have asked not to name, pleaded guilty to careless driving and was banned for six months. She was said to be devastated by the crash and wrote to Mr Smallwood expressing her remorse.
Mr Smallwood hopes to start a phased return to work in a few weeks, and is working to regain his balance to enable him to ride his mountain bike off-road.
“At the moment, he can’t organise his thoughts as effectively as he’d like,” Ms Smallwood said. “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.
“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.”
Ms Greenfield said: “The NHS contacted John on his release but obviously there was a waiting list to continue his treatment.
“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.”