Derbyshire man shares his story of survival - 21 years after horrific car accident which nearly killed him
It has been 21 years since Jon Greaves was in a car accident which nearly killed him – now he is sharing his survival story to encourage others to remain positive even during difficult times.
The day was like any other for then 32-year-old Jon, as he made his way from Eckington – where he was living at the time – to his place of work at CCS Media on Derby Road, in Chesterfield, on October 31, 2000.
Derbyshire had been ravaged by strong winds and heavy rain the previous night, with BBC weather forecasters issuing a warning to residents across the country to expect gusts of up to 90mph into the morning.
With his usual routes to work busy with traffic, Jon decided to drive through Apperknowle and had just reached Crow Lane when disaster hit.
A tree, seemingly disturbed by the bad weather, came crashing down on top of his car in a horrifying accident he can still picture to this day.
"It was a Monday morning and it had been a very stormy weekend,” Jon said. “I’m sure it lives in people’s memories as it was a bad one.
"I’d taken four different attempts to get out of Eckington, culminating in the trip over the top and down into Apperknowle, past the Travellers Rest and dropping down the really steep hill [on New Road] and towards the bottom.
"There was a farm on my left hand side and just beyond that there were some trees and one fell down, bang. In terms of probability, it’s millions to one.”
The accident, Jon says, completely wrote both him and the car off as, although he remained conscious, he was left with a number of potentially fatal injuries.
"It compressed my spine, crushed my head, I had fractures through my right eye orbit, fractures across the top of the head, a crushed brain stem,” Jon explained.
“I believe I’m in the less than one per cent of people to survive that kind of injury. The farmer saw it happen, he was in the field opposite, but he quickly dashed across to my assistance. Unbelievably, [the accident] didn’t knock me out but the world was spinning.
"He alerted emergency services and kept m talking which kept me alive because I can remember getting drowsy. Suddenly the ambulance came and they took over, I can even remember them pulling me back into the ambulance on a wheelchair. I can remember that vividly.”
Jon was rushed to Chesterfield Royal Hospital before being transported to Nottingham’s Queen's Medical Centre where he was placed on the specialist head injury ward – during which time he had slipped into a coma.
Two days later and it appeared things were looking up when Jon started to come round.
However, a subsequent coma saw the 32-year-old ‘flatline’ – a term often used in the medical industry when a person's pulse has stopped or they have no brain activity.
But doctors managed to pull Jon back from the brink and he later faced six gruelling months of rehabilitation back at Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital.
Speaking of that time, he said: “For some reason I was driven. I wanted to get out there and get my life back, get back outside as I loved the outdoors. I loved mountain biking, walking, I had a dog and a girlfriend that I thought loved me.
“She left me, so I’d got that to deal with on top of everything. I had no stable life to go back to but I fought all that.”
Jon still suffers health complications as a result of his accident, with his injuries resulting in a visual impairment to one of his eyes, loss of mobility and motor function, and constant pain to name a few.
He has also had several strokes over the years, but it is not known if they are related.
Although left with long-lasting side effects, the now 52-year-old sees what happened on October 31, 2000, as a turning point in his life and one which changed it for the better.
His hope is that, by sharing his story with the Derbyshire Times, it will inspire others to remain positive no matter what they are going through.
"I went through probably two years of accepting things, having to make hard decisions on not doing things again that I couldn’t do but focusing on the things I could do and being positive about it,” Jon said.
"Looking back, it was the right decision as I’m not bitter now at all. Many people have been suffering mental illness through these last 12 months – they may have lost their job and be in financial difficulty, or their relationships may be breaking down – I was in a similar sort of place although I’d got different reasons for being there.
"I was somehow strong enough to get myself out of it.
"I wouldn’t have dreamed I’d have the mental strength and physical ability. At that time I did surprise myself. I now know I’ve got the self belief to carry anything through.”
He added: “On five occasions I’ve suffered with chronic depression. I’ve managed to pick myself up and I’m still fighting.
"I am currently in the best place I’ve been in my entire life in terms of my mindset.
“You need to try and find a piece of good in every day, try and stay positive and believe in yourself because we’ve all got it in us and it’s how you tap into it that matters.”