Northern Ireland news

Belfast artist who fell 15 feet from a ladder whilst painting tells of recovery

Oliver McParland was in a coma after his serious fall and after finally regaining consciousness had lost his memory

A WEST Belfast artist who fell 15 feet from a ladder whilst painting has told of how the traumatic experience saved his life when an underlying medical condition was discovered.

Oliver McParland (64) was in a coma for 24 days following his fall in July 2021 and after finally regaining consciousness had lost his memory.

Now living in Ballycastle, his family were then "dealt a devastating blow" when his four-week-old grandson Zane died from cot death.

"The family held off telling me initially fearing I may not be emotionally strong enough to deal with it," he said.

Mr McParland, whose work includes portraits of Carl Frampton and Conor McGregor, is sharing his story of recovery to raise awareness of the NI Air Ambulance, which came to his aid after the fall.

"I was painting a bit of fence outside at height, just touching up on the colour to refresh it," he said.

"I was working away, pleased with how it was going and thinking that I might go and visit my newborn grandson that night, Zane.

"As I was coming to the finish of the job and on the ladder about 15 feet high, I felt the ladder tilt to the right.

"It dawned on me then I had forgotten to stabilise the ladder at the bottom and last thing I recall was trying to straighten it back up, then everything went black.

"I was told my fall was head first, broken by an iron bar on the way down. My consultant informed me that my head struck the ground and would have bounced 'a bit like a ball'."

A member of the public called 999 and the NI Air Ambulance helicopter emergency medical service (HEMS) team arrived and provided critical care to Mr McParland, including placing him in a medically induced coma. He was flown to the Royal Victoria Hospital where he spent 24 days in a coma.

"It was a very traumatic time for my whole family - first the initial shock of the accident, then me being in a coma and requiring surgery," he said.

It was soon discovered Mr McParland's fall had been caused by an underlying medical condition - a clot on his leg and one on his right lung, which had caused him to black out.

Following surgery to remove the clots, when he regained consciousness one month later he had lost his memory, not recognising his family.

It took 10 days before his memory sprung back, during rehabilitation at Musgrave Park Hospital when "a nurse said an address out loud".

A talented artist, specialising in murals and portraits, his skills were not lost following his accident.

"I was overwhelmed that I was still able to do it, and whilst I don't expect to be climbing any scaffolding to do murals any time soon, my art has been such a therapy and helped me through this," he said.

"I am still in recovery and have had to readjust my expectations of myself, but I am blessed and owe my life to the medical team who came in the Air Ambulance.

"The speed at which they attend incidents and the care provided at scene is simply incredible. I understand the induced coma the air ambulance team provided was crucial, otherwise things were really against me."

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