Gary Gallagher was left with life-changing injuries after suffering a fall from height while carrying out a survey and estimate for scaffolding works in Paisley, Scotland.
Scaffolding is often looked upon as a dangerous, unappealing, physically intensive job but it can be a wonderful career, and mine got off to a flying start. After completing a year at college in 1992 and applying for my advanced scaffolder card, I did one year of contract scaffolding, working on council estates and building sites, followed by a year of events scaffolding. I found myself working on the sets of movies such as Braveheart, Rob Roy and Trainspotting as well as television shows including Taggart, Dr Finlay and Finney.
In between times, I had achieved my Scaffolding Inspection Certificate and followed that up with my first safety qualification – the RoSPA General Certificate. Then, in July 1996, aged just 20, my life changed in an instant. While carrying out a survey for prospective scaffolding to the front and rear of a building in High Street, Paisley, I leaned against a wrought iron balustrade to measure the height of the building. The balustrade snapped and I fell headfirst, 32 feet, onto a cobblestoned pavement. As I fell I could see the tops of church roofs, and instinctively knew that I was falling from a considerable height.
"Did I have time to think I was going to die? Yes"
Did I have time to think I was going to die? Yes. I also imagined my head might have literally exploded. My hands, one of which still held the handle of the tape measure, did an incredible job of breaking the initial impact of the fall but the left side of my face took the remainder of the impact. My nose was crushed, my left cheekbone so badly shattered that it resulted in the optic nerve of my left eye severing and the loss of sight in that eye. My jaw was also fractured in three places. Initially I lost four teeth but three others were so badly chipped that they had to be removed.
My mind entered into a dream world in the immediate aftermath of the fall and I experienced what some people would describe as a near-death experience.
I was taken to Accident and Emergency at Paisley's Royal Alexandra Hospital, where I was stabilised before being sent by specialist ambulance to the southern general neurology department. I was induced into a coma for nearly two weeks and despite my head swelling to the same width as my shoulders, my face had acted like a crumple zone to protect my brain. My facial injuries required a team of surgeons to perform nine hours of maxillofacial surgery to repair. I'm very lucky to be alive.
The accident affected my family and friends but it also put a major dent in my career prospects. I had always thought that if my career in the access industry did not go as envisaged, I could try to join the police, military or if desperate, attempt to become a boxer. Those are not professions for a one-eyed man and as soon as I declare I'm disabled on job application forms, I'm not convinced my application goes much further. It's surprising the number of jobs requiring applicants to be able-bodied and have perfect eye sight. Therefore, sharing my story has taken on more significance to provide for my family. I now want to share my story and near-death experience in order to encourage people to work safely.
Gary now does safety motivational talks and can be contacted at www.fallfromheight.co.uk.
Posted: 8/30/2017 9:52:15 AM