Belfast Telegraph

Grenoble surgeons treating Michael Schumacher saved me too, reveals Belfast teacher

By John Gill

A Belfast teacher who was treated in the same hospital as Michael Schumacher after sustaining horrific injuries in a similar skiing accident has said the Formula One racer is "in the best possible place".

Schumacher is in intensive care at the University Hospital in Grenoble, after hitting his head on a rock in a crash in Meribel in the French Alps. Doctors who carried out brain surgery on the seven-time F1 world champion said he would have been killed if he had not been wearing a helmet.

Damien Gill (53) was treated after hitting a rock while skiing last February. Like the 44-year-old racing legend, he survived because he was wearing a helmet. He suffered four broken vertebrae and a broken pelvis, from which he is still recovering.

The accident occurred while Damien, from Londonderry, who is vice-principal of Colaiste Feirste in Belfast – Northern Ireland's only Irish language post-primary school – was skiing with his eldest son Eoghan.

After being brought to a medical centre, Damien was transferred to Grenoble Hospital for surgery. Following a week in the hospital, doctors allowed the father-of-two to be flown by air ambulance to Dublin Airport. He was then taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast.

Damien said: "The doctors in the Royal were very impressed at the surgery the French surgeons had carried out. They said they had done an excellent job. Michael Schumacher is in the best possible place."

He added: "When I saw the size of the dent in the helmet I was wearing I felt really lucky. One of the keys to survival is the speedy response of the medical teams on the mountainside. That then is followed up by the specialists who are vastly experienced in dealing with ski accident injuries."

Damien, a keen cyclist and member of North Belfast Harriers Athletics Club who ran in last year's Dublin Marathon, had to learn to walk again and is still having physiotherapy.

But he has conceded his skiing and marathon days are over.

"I'm back at work and able to cycle again. But skiing and marathons are definitely out," he said.

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