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Speech by Julie James at the launch of the Dan James Trust for Spinal Research

At the event Julie made the following speech below describing the story of the first 30 hours after Dan's accident. I have never seen a more emotionally charged audience and it was one of the most moving experiences of my life.

Alan Buzza - Strategic Manager (Performance Sport), Loughborough University

Introduction

I would like to start by thanking everyone for coming and supporting us this morning.

To Jonathan Miall, the CEO of Spinal Research and Louise who does an amazing job in pulling everything together as regards the London Marathon and Sponsorship.

Brian Moore, who probably has no idea quite how much his support means to us all and how many tears were shed by those who read his wonderful and moving article about Danny.

To Kathy for her help and efforts in co-ordinating this event. Michelle for designing the DJT Logo.

To Mark's family for their love and support and who put in a huge effort to raise money, initially for Dan, but which will now, we hope, be used for the funding of the boards, it seems a fitting tribute that the money raised by them is allocated to a cause that is so important to us all!

To the many friends who are here and those of you who we don't know but have taken the time to come our thanks.

Finally to my brother Mark, who in all honesty has been the driving force behind the Marathon and the board, he has motivated us all when we have felt it was perhaps all too much and his motivation has come from his great love for his nephew.

There is anywhere else in the World I would rather be than standing here today and anyone else's child I would rather today be about, than one of our own. It's not personal, it just goes back to the "There but for the grace of God go I" and Iím sure any parent in the room would share that sentiment and understand.

If I can briefly explain our reason for wanting to produce and distribute this board in Dan's memory. This comes from our own feelings of helplessness and ignorance after Dan's accident, as our knowledge of the complexities of Spinal Cord Injury grew and our realisation that perhaps Dan's recovery and progress could have been better, had his initial treatment been different. I would like to clarify I am not referring to initial pitch side treatment or any of the Clubís staff or personnel, but to Danís story thereafter, which is what were are familiar with.

At the moment you will see the concept of the board menu's text, which I'm sure you will understand that for medical and legal reasons, must be approved and will take some time to get absolutely correct. We hope we can liaise with the RFU and Spinal Injury specialists to enable us to properly portray the most vital and proven information to display on the board. And whilst Dan's accident occurred during a rugby training session and looks rugby orientated the board will, we hope, be available in any place that hosts a discipline which has an element of risk of a SCI occurring and not just rugby clubs.

The story of the accident:

On the evening of March 12 2007, two years ago today, we received a call to say Dan had had a knock at rugby. No instant panic, Dan was a lively and aggressive young player who had often sustained knocks!
I asked if he was conscious and breathed a sigh of relief when told he was. My next words were "It's not too serious then" to which the response was a pause and answer of "I wouldn't like to say."

This was the first time panic set in, although none of us had any idea of the seriousness of his accident. Dan was invincible; broken bones, anything could be fixed.

He was taken to an A+E Department of the nearest General Hospital via ambulance. In the meantime we made our way there. When we arrived the terror on Dan's face was apparent, he couldn't move or feel his legs, but as his arms weren't immobilised he was frantically moving them around, up and down and clasping and unclasping his hands. He had full hand mobility at this point and I'm sure it was human instinct for him to keep moving the bits of his body that he still could. He should never have been allowed to do this.

Dan had been given one X-Ray when he arrived he was transferred off the spinal board and onto the X-Ray table and turned and held on his side so an X-Ray could be taken from behind, his neck was supported with a collar, blocks and tape while someone tried to keep his head still. The X-Ray proved inconclusive and an hour later this whole process was repeated and we were told these X-Rays were also inconclusive.

Dan was told that the knot in the back of his scrum cap was digging into his head and ironically whilst his clothing had been cut off him his head was lifted to remove his scrum cap despite the fact Dan had a broken neck!!!

It was then decided that Dan should be given a CT Scan, something which doctors have since admitted would have been a more appropriate early course of action. However, this would not take place until the next morning as there was no one available. It was only following some pleading by us that it was agreed that the radiographer should be called.

We were now several unnecessary movements of Dan, and several hours post injury. The CT scan revealed Dan had dislocated C6 & C7 vertebrae and that his spinal cord was kinked! This was the most harrowing moment of our lives to that date.

Phone calls were made to two nearby specialist hospitals who both said they couldnít take Dan that night. It was arranged that he would be transferred to one of them in the following morning. Mark and I begged the doctor to phone Stoke Mandeville or Oswestry as these were the only two Spinal Units we knew, we were told that this would "complicate" matters. We later found out that whilst there would not always be a place at one of these units, that had a call been made that night a bed would have been available for Dan.

Dan was sedated and moved to a side ward and it was arranged that we meet him at the next hospital at 8 am in the morning. Dan then had his second transfer via ambulance. On arrival he realised his hand function had disappeared.

It was now decided he should have an emergency MRI scan. This took place at 3.30 in the afternoon, he was the last patient of the day to receive a scan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the interim our friend Michelle had, using her own initiative and in desperation of Dan's situation, phoned Stoke Mandeville, who advised her we were within our rights to request a transfer. We did this immediately and it was agreed they would take him as soon as he could get there.

The transfer via ambulance was booked at 6.00 but apparently there was no indication given that there was any urgency for the journey. The ambulance arrived 10.20!

I travelled in the ambulance with Dan and we arrived at Stoke in the early hours of the morning, at last we were somewhere equipped to deal with a Spinal Injury. By this time Dan's spinal cord had been trapped and endured additional trauma for over 30 hours. The surgeon at Stoke Mandeville was waiting to begin immediate traction to release Danís spinal cord. Our thanks to him and his team.

For us, we will always wonder how much improvement there could have been in Dan's recovery had things been different and I make no apologies to anybody for claiming that our son or anyone else in his position could and should have received better treatment.

It is our hope that if the public becomes familiar with Dan's story that no other spinally injured person or their families will be left wondering! Sometimes damage is instant, irreversible and complete, however good the initial treatment. In less complete injuries correct intervention and treatment can make a real difference. I imagine that Dan will be looking down on me now rolling his eyes and shaking his head as he said to me a couple of says before he died: "Mum, I hope you are not going to spend your time trying to be some sort of campaigner, you know some people are cut out to do things like that and you are just not one of those people. Just get on and live your life." Now this is done I know this is what he would want us to do.

Please don't anyone think Dan as tragic (he would hate that). His story yes but not him. He was larger than life, amazing and beautiful young man with a wicked sense of humour and fun. He was quite simply to us the Best Son in the World. Please let him not just be known as the Youngest British Assisted Suicide Case, but lets make his all too short life make a difference to others. We have two wonderful daughters who have had precious little of our time or energy for the last two years and I think they deserve that now. To all the marathon runners, best of luck. I think your efforts are amazing and hope you get lots of support and reach your fundraising target for Spinal Research. Thanks to everyone for listening.

To donate to the Dan James Trust click the following link :

www.justgiving.com/danjamestrust

 

Luff
Tom Mills