accessibility & help

Nick's story: first aid skills save impaled man

Emergency response UK (night) 100, 190, 250Layton Thompson

A Red Cross first aider rushed to help after a stag party reveller accidentally impaled himself while trying to climb an iron-railed fence.

Nick Barham happened upon the grisly and bizarre incident near Brighton train station in the early hours of a February morning. The volunteer had just finished a gruelling six-hour shift with the Red Cross' Safe Space project, which provides first aid support in the city centre on weekend nights.

Walking past the train station just before four in the morning, Nick heard a commotion and rushed over to help. He recalled: “I found two men – off-duty police officers, it turned out – supporting a very drunk man who’d impaled his thigh on the station fence. It was horrible.”

Stem the bleeding

“The fence spike had gone about six inches into him and, to be honest, I’d never seen bleeding like that in my life. I was still wearing my utility belt so I put some medical gloves on and shouted to train station staff to bring a first aid kit.”

For the next ten minutes, Nick applied bandages and padding to stem the excessive bleeding while the two officers tried to hold the 27-year-old casualty in place. Nick said: “He was actually hanging off this five foot fence so we also had to keep him steady and stabilised while I treated the wound.

Cut the fence

After ten minutes the fire service arrived, shortly followed by a paramedic. As fire officers gave the casualty oxygen, they quickly realised drastic action would be needed.

Tony Rose, fire station manager, told the Brighton and Hove Argus: “His right leg was impaled through the hamstring and his left ankle was also trapped, so he simply couldn't move. It was too dangerous to pull the railing out, so we had to cut it instead.”

Throughout the whole ordeal, Nick was at the centre of things, providing care. He remembered: “Once the fire officers started with their hydraulic cutting tools, the casualty started deteriorating quite quickly and going into shock. I just kept talking to him and trying to keep him conscious.

Emergency treatment

“Finally, after two very difficult hours, we carried him to the ambulance – with half the fence still in him – and he sped off for emergency surgery.”

Dave Nelson, service manager, thinks the incident shows Nick in a typical light. He said: "Nick is a true Red Cross volunteer, with an unstinting devotion to the service he is providing. I applaud his actions in this situation."

As he recovered later in hospital, the casualty thanked all those who had helped him during the emergency.

Find out about first aid training

Become a first aid volunteer