Little over 18 months ago Gary Wainwright hit the headlines when he fended off a Samurai sword-wielding thug while on holiday in Tenerife. Gary nearly lost his arm but today, thanks to doctors in Sheffield he is recovering well. He told Ben Spencer why he owes them so much
ON December 31, 2010, Gary Wainwright was on holiday with family and friends, preparing to usher in the New Year.
He and his daughter Leanne had travelled to the Canary Isles for a short break and were celebrating in a bar in the resort of Playa Paraiso, on Tenerife.
Then Gary’s life changed forever.
A man who had been ejected from the bar earlier in the night burst into the room brandishing a three-foot Samurai sword.
Gary, aged 54, from Wadsley Bridge, lunged at the maniac with a chair in an attempt to shield his family and friends - but the sword slashed through his left arm.
A bone was broken, an artery and nerves were severed and his hand was left hanging by a thread.
He needed 178 stitches in Tenerife to repair the wounds, and has undergone four operations back in Sheffield.
Medics told him if friends had not tied a belt around his arm to stem the blood loss he would have died on the holiday island.
But just a year and a half later, Gary is back at the helm of the Hillsborough cafe he runs. He is piecing his life back together.
“About half way between the wrist and the elbow my arm was almost completely severed,” he told The Star.
“It was hanging on by flesh and skin.
“But now I’ve got about 65 per cent of my arm use back - and that is down to the doctors, who have done an incredible job.”
After being initially treated in Tenerife, Gary was flown back to South Yorkshire, where specialists at the Northern General Hospital opened up his wounds again in a bid to save his arm.
Gary said: “My consultant told me we had a short window of opportunity to operate and that we needed to take it.”
In a seven-and-a-half hour procedure, consultant plastic surgeon Gavin Miller and his team took apart the stitches the Spanish doctors had put in Gary’s arm and operated to reconstruct his forearm.
Mr Miller, one of six consultants in the specialist Sheffield Hand Centre, which had opened just two months earlier, said: “The surgery was complex and made more challenging by the delay in him coming to us, as the scarring process was already setting in.
“However, after we repaired the damage Gary worked really hard with the hand therapists to optimise the results of surgery.
“Despite all the damage to the nerves and guiders to his forearm he has regained some really useful function in his hand.”
Gavin said he initially struggled to cope with the trauma of the attack.
“It did play on my mind, but I just have to deal with it,” he said
“If you fall off a bike you have to get back on - I’ve been back to Tenerife twice and I think the demons have now been exorcised.
“What has been very important is how the doctors have helped me, not just physically, but also mentally.
“They made sure after each consultation I had achievable small goals to work towards – this was crucial for me as it really helped to keep my spirits up as each time I reached my goal it gave me a great mental boost.”
Mr Miller said: “Gary has done really well considering the severity of his original injury.
“The therapists set Gary goals to aim for, and this helped him recover faster.”
Gary, who last year celebrated his 30-year-old daughter Leanne’s wedding, said: “Without the hand unit I would have been nowhere near the progress I have made.
“I know I will never get 100 per cent movement back in my arm - but I’m on about 65 per cent at the moment, and we’re hoping to get up to about 80 per cent.”
He still has a great loss of feeling in his left arm and cannot grip properly with his hand.
But he is now able to drive - and recently got back in the gym for the first time.
He said: “Being able to go back to the gym is really important, it is a great passion of mine.
“I’m even getting close to lifting the same weight as I did before the attack.
“I cannot speak too highly of all the team at the centre – the surgeons, nurses, physiotherapists, everyone who helped.
“They have all been so good to me, so supportive and professional, they have rebuilt my life - it’s as simple as that really.”