5 April 2023

Intensive care journey for racer Mike

On August bank holiday in 2022, printer Mike Brown was enjoying a day of racing his Ginetta around Thruxton race course. Suddenly he lost control of his car and crashed into the barriers at 140 miles per hour. He was flown to University Hospital Southampton where he was fighting for his life for the next 24 hours. His wife, Vic, explains:

“My husband, Mike, and his youngest son, Adam, love to race.

The August bank holiday was shaping up to be a lovely sunny day, perfect for racing. I was working in my cafe when I received a phone call from the mechanics on the trackside.

I was told that Mike had been involved in an accident, was in a critical condition, and I should get to University Hospital Southampton immediately as the south coast’s major trauma unit.

I jumped into my car, and drove from our home in Hertford, nearly beating him to the hospital.

When Mike crashed into the barriers, it took the trackside medics an hour and a half to get him out of the car as they had to have blood transfusions and the air ambulance on standby.

As soon as the rescue teams cut the car away and released the pressure on his body, they had to respond immediately due to the extensive internal bleeding. Suddenly free, Mike was airlifted to Southampton and stayed in the Resus area at the emergency department until he stabilised.

That evening they x-rayed him at the bedside to see the extent of his injuries. It was truly shocking!

On the left-hand side he had broken his collar bone, nine ribs broken front and back, one broken ankle, his pelvis was broken in three places front and back, and his right thumb was broken. He also had a collapsed lung which needed a drain.

The next day they moved him to the General Intensive Care Unit, where staff spent the next 24 hours trying to keep his organs functioning. It proved too much for his body and that night, he had a heart attack.

Thankfully he pulled through, and they put an epidural into his spine for the pain. Once under control, they put a plaster cast on his ankle and thumb.

By Thursday, the medical team needed Mike to put pressure on his pelvis to help it knit together so a team of four physiotherapists, and a large quantity of pain killers, helped him to sit up in his bed.

Then just four days after his accident, he was wheeled around to the new rehabilitation area to practice sitting up again. They made the rehabilitation fun, and he practised moving his legs to kick a football with the physiotherapist team!

Being in a new area was a good change of scene for us both. There was a time I never thought we would get to this point.

 

After six days in intensive care, Mike was moved to the trauma unit in the orthopaedic wards where he joined a group of men with similar injuries.

The camaraderie was lovely! They supported each other, always praising, and respecting the small steps that each of them made. Mike gradually progressed from sitting up, to being able to transfer out of his bed and onto a chair.

It was a long and intense three weeks, but the progress he made was incredible. The first time he got himself into a wheelchair and we went down to sit outside was amazing. The feeling of the sun on his face after 17 days made him feel so much better.

Unfortunately, things took a turn again and Mike developed a raging infection in his gall bladder, bowel, lower intestine, and lung.

He went downhill very fast, and once again the doctors on the wards saved his life. He had emergency surgery to flush the infection out of his intestine and was transferred back to intensive care.

He gradually stabilised there, but his internal organs were in a bad way. After a week of extreme pain, it was decided that surgery was needed. They discovered that his bowel had gone through his diaphragm, and there was a risk that it would rupture.

The problem was that his heart was very weak and the wires in his thumb meant that he could not have another MRI scan.

All of the medical teams worked together to find the best solution. The wires keeping his thumb in place were removed for the scan and operation. His diaphragm was opened so they could get the bowel back in place, and his gall bladder was removed.

Back in intensive care, Mike once again received incredible care from all the staff, and gradually the infections abated.

He remained in general intensive care where his internal organ damage could be monitored. His blood pressure was unstable and scans revealed damage to his heart. It was now the end of September, and he wasn’t showing signs of being able to leave the hospital.

Unfortunately in early October, Mike caught Covid-19. With drains in his chest, recent surgery, and heart damage, he was put into isolation.

On 15 October, the decision was made to allow Mike to go home. We had ramps, wheelchairs, and other equipment installed in the house, and remained under the constant cared of the Southampton teams. It was not a smooth ride, with liver infections recurring and drains being put into his liver.

We continued the slow process of physiotherapy and attempting to walk again. Christmas was a target for being up on his feet, and he almost made it.

This year started with his liver and heart being the main causes of concern. His hand still needs operating on to straighten out the thumb, but that is on hold until his heart is stronger.

The intensity of care that Mike has received both in the hospital and since he has been home from all the staff in Southampton has been extraordinary.

From the one-to-one care in intensive care, with specialists in all areas available every day, to the care he has received while at home, the Southampton team are faultless. We saw so many of them from cardiologists to anaesthetists, nursing staff, physiotherapists, and all the other support staff in the hospital.

 

Throughout his stay he was never alone, and has had constant expert care both in the hospital and at home. The various teams phone regularly, and he has regular hospital appointments.

We have been informed about medical decisions every step of the way, from setting bones to support systems and medication. Even when his support was intense, I was never made to feel unwelcome. The staff always made sure that I could be with him.

We’ve both been absolutely stunned by the number of staff involved in ensuring that he has the best possible quality of life following his accident. Nothing is overlooked, and if Mike makes a comment about something, it is always taken seriously and investigated.

I would like to thank all the staff at Southampton for giving us back our future.

Mike would not have survived without the skills and knowledge of the teams at the hospital, and we could not be more grateful. Thank you just doesn’t seem enough!”

 

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