A Fellside farmer has spoken out about the vital work of BEEP doctors, which saved him from losing his right hand and forearm following a traumatic accident involving a silage feeder wagon.
George Henry Morton, of Gamblesby, is supporting the BEEP charity’s appeal to raise £150,000 to provide defibrillator monitors for the volunteer doctors in the scheme who attend road, farm, riding and many other serious accidents as well as medical emergencies.
BEEP began in the Penrith area with three doctors but now has 15 highly trained medics covering a large swathe of Cumbria into the Scottish borders.
The charity is run by unpaid volunteers and doctors but has to find many thousands of pounds each year to cover training, updating of protective clothing and medical equipment and maintaining its specialist vehicle.
To further improve its life-saving service, the charity has launched an appeal to provide each doctor with a defibrillator, and then aims to move on to securing portable ultrasound machines for its medics.
George Henry joined BEEP doctor and the chairman of the charity, Dr Theo Weston, to back the appeal.
He was injured on Easter Saturday night in 2020 when his forearm was all but severed in an accident with a silage feeder at the family farm. An ambulance crew attended, quickly followed by Dr Weston.
Working on the kitchen floor, Dr Weston repositioned George Henry’s virtually severed arm and returned what blood supply he could to the limb before accompanying his patient to the Royal Victoria Infirmary at Newcastle in the land ambulance.
Surgeons at Newcastle worked through the night to reattach George Henry’s arm and, after just over a fortnight in hospital he was allowed home to begin 11 months of intensive physiotherapy to help him regain use of his hand.
With wife Hannah having more than 700 ewes to lamb, cows to calve and their two young daughters to care for, he quickly returned to the farm, doing what he could one-handed at first.
He was distressed to have to watch family and friends bring in his silage, but celebrated a milestone in his recovery when he was able to bale his own hay.
Launching the appeal with Dr Weston, George Henry said: “I was just starting to feed the cattle late at night and something was amiss with the machine. I went to inspect it and had a lapse of concentration. The machine cut my hand off as such.
“I think instinct cut in; it’s that flight mode. I ran back to the farmhouse kicking doors and things open with my feet while bundling my right arm to my body with my left hand.
“My parents were there and rang for the emergency services and my wife next door heard me screaming as I ran into the house and she came to help.”
His sister, wife and parents worked to stop the bleeding until the land ambulance crew arrived.
“Theo turned up then and everything sort of got into gear with that extra level of expertise,” said George Henry.
“After Theo got me up to Newcastle I spent nine and a half hours in surgery and they managed to reattach my hand and join the blood circulation and tendons.
“It is 11 months since, and now I can manage to pick things up. I can’t pick up a glass or a mug but I can hold big things and I can drive. If it wasn’t for Theo I would have lost my right hand.”
He said he now had a greater respect for the silage machine but added: “You have to just soldier on. The cows still need feeding.”
Dr Weston said: “I hate to think of what he went through on the night,” explaining how he was able to give a large dose of ketamine — something paramedics are not able to do — which allowed him to straighten the arm to improve what little blood supply was left to the hand.
“Without intervention he would have lost his right hand, which would have made it very difficult to farm. He has been so courageous through this. He has got through it and is doing so well.”
Dr Weston said BEEP doctors were trained in procedures which paramedics, although “marvellous”, could not do, so that critical care previously only available in accident and emergency units could be given at the scene of incidents.
He also said that he worked for the Great North Air Ambulance Service “as a day job” but that he and other BEEP doctors were also available to support the land ambulance service in helping people at night and in bad weather, when the air ambulances cannot fly.
Donations towards the BEEP defibrillator appeal can be made by post or via the JustGiving page at https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/BEEPDoctors