Ex-MLA praises first responders who saved his life after smash
A former MLA who suffered serious injuries in a car crash says he feels lucky to be alive.
Tommy Gallagher has little memory of the collision between his car and a lorry near Kesh, Co Fermanagh, in March.
He suffered bone damage, and his ribcage was badly affected.
Mr Gallagher, who was an SDLP MLA for Fermanagh and South Tyrone from 1998 to 2011, was airlifted to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast.
He was travelling with his wife Eileen, who was also injured but did not require a hospital stay.
After almost three weeks in hospital, Mr Gallagher (75) was discharged with a new appreciation for the health service.
He said: "It's been more than six weeks now since the accident and while I still have quite severe injuries, at least I have my life, and I am very grateful for that.
"I remember the crash and the first few minutes afterwards.
"I remember Eileen being able to get out of the car and I could see her calling for help and I remember the very severe pain, but then I started drifting into unconsciousness
"I don't remember much about what happened after that but I understand I was taken by helicopter from the scene.
"I appreciate now more than most the immense contribution that facility makes, especially to people like myself who live a long distance away from our main hospitals.
"It really is a lifesaver and it is a great asset for rural communities in particular, but also for everyone caught up in emergency situations."
Mr Gallagher praised the emergency crews who attended the crash.
"The local emergency services were at the scene as well very quickly and I understand there was a paramedic who was there within minutes," he added. "He was not on duty but happened to be travelling in the area and he was a great help to me while we were waiting on the others to come. He, like his colleagues who came a short time later, have my deep gratitude."
He added: "While I don't want to go into detail about my injuries, I did have quite a lot of bone damage, my ribcage was badly damaged and injuries of that nature, but I was cared for exceptionally well.
"I was brought so speedily to the hospital, where there was such a caring group of staff waiting for me.
"I will have to go back to Belfast for regular check-ups from the various disciplines - the orthopaedics and plastic and others who treated my injuries and who are keeping a close eye on me.
"While they haven't said I will make a full recovery, I am moving in the right direction.
"I have been through a horrific trauma and it will be some time yet before I am recovered, but I am alive and that's the important thing."