Revolutionary surgery saves grandfather's life

​Pictured from left: Mr Ertan Erel, Consultant Plastic Surgeon, Vivienne Keller, Ian Keller, Richard Underwood, Sally Underwood and Mr Chris Satur, Cardiothoracic Consultant

UHNM's major trauma team has saved the life of a patient given just 20% chance of survival following a horrific accident. 69-year-old grandfather Ian Keller and his wife Vivienne were enjoying a day-trip on a barge when Mr Keller fell into the water and got sucked into the spinning propeller blade. The propeller cut through the right-side of his chest and arm, causing multiple injuries including damage to his ribcage and a hole the size of a football to his chest. Expert clinicians at Royal Stoke performed revolutionary chest wall reconstruction and fitted titanium plates to support his rib cage. Mr Keller not only survived but made rapid progress, being discharged from hospital less than a month later.

Mr Keller said: "My wife and I were on-board with another couple enjoying a lovely day out. It was a glorious day weather-wise and everything was going well, until I came to turn the boat and the tiller swung at full force, knocking me into the water. It happened so quickly, I just remember thinking to myself - why am I in the air?! I remember going into the water and seeing the propeller blades coming towards me, and I knew that I had one chance to get away. I tried to swim, but the pull was too strong and I got sucked in.

"When I awoke I just accepted the situation. What happened was unlucky but I ended up with the most fantastic surgeons and supportive staff that I could wish for. The trauma nurses were excellent, I needed so much care night and day, but they were always jolly and attentive, absolutely the best. I can't thank the whole team enough for what they have done. I am just incredibly grateful to be here."

Mr Keller was under water for 90 seconds and was pulled from the canal in Nantwich by Market Drayton husband and wife holidaymakers Richard and Sally Underwood. Mrs Underwood, a former trauma nurse, performed lifesaving resuscitation at the scene.

Mr Underwood said: "We heard a woman scream and thought perhaps our dog had fallen in. When I waded into the water and I caught sight of the back of Ian's head. His clothes were entwined with the propeller so it was hard for me to get him out. Then I had to run back to my boat to get an ordinance survey map to direct the ambulance as we were in a remote area."

Mr Keller was flown in by air ambulance to Royal Stoke, where specialists used revolutionary chest wall reconstruction to save his life. He underwent three operations days apart to remove canal water and had to have hos chest reconstructed with titanium plates to support his rib cage. Thanks to the work of the team, Mr Keller is now back enjoying rounds of golf, playing tennis and spending time with his nine grandchildren.

UHNM is now driving forward this revolutionary treatment, which has seen survival rates improve by up to 75%. Clinicians have been invited to discuss the benefits of the treatment both nationally and internationally and are providing the lead on education. The trauma team have been given the Chief Executive’s Award in recognition of their outstanding skill and dedication.

Mr Ertan Erel, Consultant Plastic Surgeon, said: "It was one of the worst injuries I have ever seen in my career - it was clearly life threatening. I was involved in the closure of the muscle layers to reconstruct his chest wall and putting on a dressing to seal the wounds so that he was in a sterile environment."

Mr Chris Satur, Consultant Cardiothoracic Surgeon, said: "The severity of Mr Keller's injuries were so significant that there was an 80 per cent chance of him dying. When he came in his chest was completely open to the elements and had all the filthy canal water in there and so there was a high chance of him developing an infection. He could not breathe adequately and if the chest can't breathe, there is a chance of developing sepsis. It is only in the last 10 years that we have been able to develop the kind of tools needed to perform this type of treatment, but at Royal Stoke we are leading the way."

Mr Keller returned to Royal Stoke on Friday to meet up with the surgeons who saved his life.