Mike Johnston, 30, was teaching in Thailand when he was involved in the accident earlier this month and had to have his left leg amputated
A Co Antrim man is recovering in hospital in Thailand after doctors were forced to amputate his leg following a motorbike accident.
Mike Johnston, 30, was teaching in Chumphon, in southern Thailand, when he was involved in the accident earlier this month.
His parents Michael Johnston and Jillian Clements flew out to be at their son’s side but due to his insurance policy lapsing, the family have had to pay tens of thousands for his medical care.
In a warning to others travelling, they urged people to ensure they had the right insurance to avoid falling into a similar position.
Mike’s friends and colleagues in Thailand, as well as the community in Northern Ireland, have rallied to support the family since the accident, raising almost £13,000 towards his care.
Speaking on behalf of the family, 58-year-old Ballymena man Michael , said: “Make sure your insurance is in place because it is bad enough having an injury but if you have the added burden of tens thousands of pounds having to be spent on repatriation to the UK it just adds another dimension to the pain and suffering.
“It is something that is in your head every day, you are standing looking at your son, trying to do your best for him but every time they come into the room it’s a thousand pounds and we have not got that kind of money.
“People when you go on holidays, make sure your insurance is in place, make sure your insurance is in place to allow you do things you want to do, read the small print because anybody can go to Benidorm and have basic insurance but if you go further afield and want to do bungee jumping or motorcycling or jet skiing, make sure your insurance covers it.
“If it doesn’t they will very happily walk away from it.”
Mike, a former pupil at Cambridge House, had previously worked in Thailand and China but started his current role in Chumphon in December teaching young children aged 7-10 how to speak English.
It was at 6.30am on Sunday, February 10, when dad-of-three Michael received a call from Thailand to say his son had been involved in a serious accident.
“I called my ex-wife Jillian and we had a quick conversation and a few hours later I was getting flights organised to get to Bangkok,” he said.
The parents arrived the next afternoon and Mike’s teacher friends had arranged a car to transport them to the town from Bangkok, a journey that took eight hours.
“During this time we were getting updates, it was a very rural hospital and the care was a good as they could afford to give but it wasn’t specialist,” he said.
“They did their very best but on the phone when we were in the UK they were saying they needed to cut and they meant amputate, my son was hollering in the background ‘Don’t cut my leg’. It was difficult but I asked them if at all possible not to do that until I got there.”
It was the early hours of Tuesday, February 12, when the pair got to see their son.
“He had deteriorated because they had wrapped the wound and tried to work on the leg but it was a very open wound and a lot of dirt had got into the wound during the accident,” he said.
“While they had tried to do as much as they could there was a lot of vascular damage and he almost bled to death.
“At that stage the other problem they had was they only had a few units of his blood type, so they had to go to Phuket and get some blood transported from there.
“He was struggling and had anaemia, the wound was infected.
“There was a potential for a Medivac by helicopter but Mike, young people being young people, his travel insurance had lapsed and we very quickly realised everything that was being done here, there was a tab attached to it and elevating at a fantastic rate of knots.
“The potential Medivac by helicopter was £12,000, but then they told us they couldn’t do it because he was too unstable and still loosing blood.”
A decision was made the next morning, to save some money for treatment in Bangkok, then Mike would be transported to BNH hospital in Bangkok by a private ambulance.
“The medical team were waiting, had a look and checked the foot for pulse but we knew at that stage it had gone from bad to worse, the foot did not look the right colour,” said Michael.
“I asked for their expert opinion and they told me matter of factly that the leg has to come off soon because if it doesn’t he is going to get sepsis.
“They told me in no uncertain terms they had to operate now. I asked if they could save his knee because I knew it wold be better for when he learns to walk with a prosthetic, but they told me no that from what they could see it was up to the knee at least.”
Michael said giving consent was “probably one of the hardest things I have had to do”.
Mike spent three to four nights in ICU with 24 hour care following the amputation of his left leg in the early hours of February 13.
Now, nine days post operation, Michael said his son was struggling with pain and a bit of PTSD.
The family are now waiting for the OK from medical professionals to fly Mike home where he can continue treatment at the Royal Victoria Hospital.
But the cost of procedures are mounting up and Michael said he and Jillian were extremely grateful to everyone who had been fundraising for Mike so far.
“Every day all the different procedures take place, you look at the end of the day at a checklist waiting for you to sign off,” he said.
“In the interim his friends here, with my blessing, said they would set up a fundraising page and see what happens. I have to admit I am humbled by the experience, there has been significant help, initially from his friends and work colleagues here in Thailand but of course it has spread back to Northern Ireland.
“We have £12-13,000 in a fund at this stage which is going to be a fantastic help, trust me when I tell you without telling the total figure that what has been spent at this stage is easily in excess of that.”
He said money raised will help towards getting Mike back home as doctors have advised booking business class tickets so Mike can lie down for the journey.
When Mike returns home, he will need other operations to close that wound over and start him on the road to recovery, rehabilitation, occupational therapy and all the other things that go along with the trauma that he has suffered.
Throughout the whole experience, Michael said Carrickfergus man Ross Davidson, who lost a leg and almost lost his life after a devastating bike crash in Thailand in 2017, and his family have been an incredible support.
They have been chatting to Michael’s wife Dawn, who is at home in Ballymena doing all paper work , and they want to come and see Mike when he gets home.
“I know Ross has been inspirational to a lot of other people and they have been very kind, a massive help to us over this time,” he said.
“Andrew has been great, and his wife Desna, and Ross wants to come and see Mike as soon as Mike feels up to it, just to have a sit down and say I have been there, I’ve done it and Ross has made significant progress.
“They have been a very kind family and very supportive and I am looking forward to meeting them when we get back.”