A father-of-three whose life was shattered after losing an arm following a horrific motorbike crash has spoken of his slow road to recovery – but says he can never forgive the driver responsible.
Welder Darrell Gibbard from Herne Bay was on his way to work when a car suddenly pulled out in front of him on the Old Thanet Way while he was legally overtaking queueing traffic.
Unable to avoid the collision with the Citroen Saxo, the 31-year-old suffered a severe spinal injury which paralysed his right arm, as well as eight rib fractures, a broken jaw and a punctured lung.
Police shut the busy stretch in both directions between Chestfield and Swalecliffe and the Greenhill Road roundabout for two hours while they dealt with the aftermath.
Recalling the horror crash, Mr Gibbard said: “The driver pulled out without any warning. My life flashed before me and the next thing I remember was waking up in hospital.”
Hurled off his Yamaha R1 bike, Darrell had landed 15ft from the crash site and was subsequently rushed to William Harvey Hospital where he underwent surgery on his broken jaw.
Rather more concerning, he had also suffered a brachial plexus injury causing spinal nerve damage and his dominant right arm to become paralysed.
He said: “I was moved to King’s College Hospital in London and remember willing my arm to move, but I couldn’t feel it. You never think you’re going to lose your arm, but I soon realised it was serious.
“I kept thinking about how I was going to support my young family and, at that point, a bit of panic set in.”
After five weeks, Darrell was transferred to the specialist Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital where he underwent spinal surgery to try and restore sensation in his arm.
However, due to the severity of his injury the procedure was unsuccessful, and doctors told him it would likely require an amputation, which he opted for a year later.
“My arm was a dead weight, so it was like continually carrying around a bag full of shopping, which affected my surrounding muscles,” he said.
“So it was recommended for me to have an above elbow amputation but because it was my dominant arm, I had to completely retrain my left one.
“Certain things I took for granted like cooking, writing, changing nappies or even playing catch with my son became frustratingly difficult.
“They might seem like little things, but to me they’re part of being a dad.
“But my wife Jade has been incredibly supportive, and I couldn’t have got through this without her.”
Not letting that hold him back, the professional welder was back at work within six months of his injury and despite his multi-thousand pound payout, he wants to continue working and doing what he loves.
Darrell says the toughest part was getting over the mental trauma and his initial anger over what had happened to him, which was difficult to deal with.
“I have Neuropathic Phantom Limb Syndrome so I still feel as though my arm is there, but it feels like it is being burned and crushed at the same time. I need painkillers every day.
“I try not to think about it, but sometimes I do wonder how my life would have been. I can’t ever forgive the driver for what he did – I’m still suffering today.
The case, which was taken on by Manchester-based Barings Law, settled out of court almost seven years after the accident in 2015, from which Darrell received £679,000 in net damages, paid by the driver’s insurance company.
Having used some of his settlement money to buy a new house for his family, Darrell hasn’t given up his work as a welder and now takes private bookings, but has decided to stop riding motorbikes despite it being his childhood hobby.
He said: “I know most people would have packed in their day jobs, but that’s not me. I don’t want my injury to define who I am. Although it is harder welding with one arm, I’m still very good at it.
“I haven’t been on a motorbike since the crash and will never again. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but its what my family want, so I have to respect that.
“The settlement has given me relief that they’ll be okay but although we’re now mortgage-free, if I could trade my arm back, I would do so in a heartbeat.
“I would encourage motorists to be mindful on the road and remember it only takes a slight lapse in concentration to have life-changing consequences on others and yourself.
“I’m grateful to be alive but the impact has changed my life but I have to thank my incredible solicitor Amina Ali for believing in my case and giving my family some financial peace of mind while allowing me to fund any potential future medical treatment.”
Darrell’s solicitor Amina Ali said: “I’m thrilled to secure a significant settlement for Darrell and it was a pleasure working with him.
“Although it’s not going to take his injuries and pain away, it does give him some justice for what happened and financial security for his family. I wish them all the best.”