THEY say lightning never strikes twice, but Catherine Henderson suffered life-threatening injuries twice – and made a miraculous recovery both times.
Catherine, 62, of Lancaster, revealed that the same surgeon saved her life on both occasions, despite being treated at two different hospitals and the accidents happening 13 years apart.
Catherine, who is married to Simon and has a son Philip, 39, an engineer, and a daughter Kate, a GP in Australia, came close to death in an horrific car accident on November 25 last year.
The keen horsewoman, who competes in dressage, was driving from Lancaster to Preston to meet her horse trainer when she crashed at Galgate.
She recalls: “I set off about 5.20am and it was very dark and there had been a lot of rain. As I was driving, I suddenly hit floodwater which I didn’t see because of the dark.”
Catherine has no recollection of the accident but her car spun and hit a signpost before crashing with great impact.
The driver’s side was completely smashed in and firefighters had to use cutting equipment to take the top off the car and the door to get her out. She was then flown by air ambulance to the Royal Preston Hospital where medics battled to save her. Catherine suffered terrible injuries including a broken neck, broke all her ribs except one, suffered a ruptured spleen and punctured her lungs.
The trauma team at Royal Preston Hospital took Catherine for urgent surgery to save her life and her spleen had to be removed.
She was also at risk of developing injury to her spinal cord due to her neck fracture which could have led to paralysis or even death.
To prevent this, she underwent stabilisation of her neck fracture by Aprajay Golash, consultant neurosurgeon at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals. He managed to fix her neck using a pioneering technique which is now being taught to medical students.
Catherine spent 10 days in the intensive care unit and a further three weeks on a ward.
Even though it has only been a couple of months, she has made such a good recovery that she is now back in the saddle.
Catherine, who has 15 horses, a donkey, six dogs, a cat and an African parrot, teaches horse-riding and competes in dressage.
She says: “I suffer from double vision as they think I damaged a nerve and I have to wear glasses with frosted lenses to combat this.
“My ribs are also quite painful, I am still on morphine and I have lost a lot of hair.”
In a massive quirk of fate, Catherine realised that Mr Golash was the same surgeon who operated on her when she suffered major head injuries in a horse-riding accident 13 years ago – even though he worked at a different hospital at the time.
She added: “I was riding a horse on a road. There was a concrete mixer behind us which startled the horse and he threw me off and I smashed my head on a concrete block. I was taken to Hope Hospital in Manchester where they had to carry out surgery because of the bleeding to my brain and I had to have half my skull removed and six months later, it was replaced with a metal plate. By amazing coincidence, the surgeon who carried out my brain surgery was Mr Golash, as he was working at Hope Hospital at the time.
“He has saved my life twice and is a very good and clever man.
“I just hope he is there if I ever need him again.”
Mr Golash says: “I was amazed when Mrs Henderson told me that I had operated on her before. It is a real coincidence.”