A man who was left in a coma after a car crash and who is now battling a flesh-eating infection has told how he is “lucky to be alive”.
Derek Stephen was in the crash on the A90 with his girlfriend Helen Noble on October 1 last year
His car came off the road just past Brechin at Stracathro and struck a tree, leaving him in a coma for three weeks and in hospital for two months as his injuries were treated.
The 46-year-old, from Peterhead, who had to be cut free from the wreckage of the car, sustained 36 broken and fractured bones as well as nerve damage.
He also had issues with his speech and hearing after he awoke from the coma.
Helen, 44, was also injured and is still walking with two sticks.
Derek, who has been left wheelchair-bound for the moment due to his injuries, has been undergoing various surgeries to treat the infection which has developed in his leg.
Speaking of the moment his car came off the road, he said: “My car aquaplaned on the A90 past Brechin. It’s a horrible piece of road since it has concrete instead of tar.
“I was only going at about 55mph at the time.
“I skidded into a tree and it took out the whole side of my car.
“It took two hours to cut me out of the wreck and I was rushed to Ninewells Hospital.
“I was in a coma for three weeks and was later moved to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary (ARI) so that I could be closer to my family.
“It was very serious – for a while it was touch-and-go.
“I was in hospital for two months altogether and the doctors didn’t know if I was going to make it.
“When I look at how bad the crash was, it’s a miracle that I am still here.”
He added: “I didn’t have any recollection of the crash.
“I only regained any sort of memory a month and a bit after coming into hospital.”
Since then, Derek has developed an infection in his leg that saw him hospitalised at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary three weeks ago and he has been there since.
He said: “There are issues with my left leg now. Doctors rebroke my leg because it was not correctly set and replaced the screws that they had put in it.
“Three weeks later I found out it was infected and bacteria was eating away at my leg.”
Derek had an X-ray last week which revealed his leg was still quite swollen. He has since been in the operating theatre three times.
The next step would be to attempt skin grafts to cover the exposed bone.
Derek said: “I’m confined to my wheelchair right now but I’m hopeful I’ll be able to walk again.
“I’m currently getting antibiotics put into me three or four times a day.”
Despite his troubles, he has managed to stay optimistic, saying: “There is always someone worse off than yourself.
“I am very lucky to be alive after the crash.
“I am still here and that’s the main thing.”
Derek, who is dad to 24-year-old Michael and 18-year-old Lucy, is going to be a grandad for the first time.
His son’s child is due to be born this October.
He said: “I’m going to be a grandad for the first time and I’m so excited.
“It gives me a real reason to keep fighting.”
Derek, who volunteered full-time prior to his accident after being forced to stop working 11 years ago due to his diabetes, has now found a way to keep busy while he is in hospital. For the past week, he has been picking up litter outside the front of ARI.
He said: “I was bored spending all my time inside the hospital so I started picking up the litter outside the hospital with a handle.
“I just go out with plastic bin liners and pick up the rubbish.
“I like to keep myself busy and the area looks so much nicer when there isn’t a mess outside the door.
“I’ve started going to A&E at night and clearing up the area around there as well.
“It does make a difference when you look at it. It puts a smile on my face seeing the area a bit cleaner.”