Ricky’s story.

It’s been two and a half years since my accident, and I may never recover fully from the nerve damage it caused. I used to work for the biggest steel erector company in the UK, who do all sorts of big UK jobs. They cry out ‘Safety First’, but that’s not my experience.

I left school at 16, and at 18, I went to work for a friend’s dad in his steel erecting and bridgework company. Ever since, I’ve been a steel erector. I’m 42 now, I’ve worked abroad, done all sorts of steel work, so I’m very experienced.

The accident was caused by the decking used to access the site. It was always a trip hazard, we kept telling the company. It was corrugated, just wide enough to fit a boot width, so do you walk straight, waddle with your feet apart, or walk sideways across it? But they gave us no instructions or training at all in how to access the decking.

In October 2021 I was working on a site at Piccadilly Circus, and we were doing a site clear up. I had slung a load of rails, to move away, but there was a crane in the way. So, we stopped, and moved out of the way of the suspended load. My right foot slipped into the decking as I was twisting to my left to walk away from the suspended load, and I fell forward with the momentum. My pals heard a loud crack around my ankle area. I sat down, took my boot off, and the ankle swelled immediately. They got me down to the site office, who reported the accident as a sprained ankle in the incident book, and got me an Uber taxi to St Thomas’s.

The X-ray showed there were no broken bones, and I was discharged to Yorkshire. I had an MRI at Pontefract hospital in November but didn’t get results until end of January 2022, when I found out I had a snapped ligament, as well as other damaged ligaments and tendons. I would need a brostrom repair. I did physical therapy first to see if my other ligaments and tendons would be strong enough to support me without surgery but it didn’t work. I had the operation in May 2022 and was in a cast for six more weeks.

At first the pain wasn’t too bad, I could deal with it, but after the cast was removed, it became horrendous. It was too painful for physio, and I was diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. My wife and kids were roped in to try to desensitize my ankle, touching me with different objects to overcome the pain, but it didn’t work. I’m now consuming 2500 mg of medication each day for the pain. Nerve injections don’t work, and I still have the pain two and a half years later. It’s like a hot knife being twisted in my ankle, 24/7. There isn’t a cure.

My life has stopped: I can’t drive, play with my young kids, play or watch rugby. All the stuff I did after work has stopped, and I’m dependent on my wife.

I can’t work because of the pain, and there’s no solution in sight. The pain is spreading now, and I’ve contemplated amputation of the ankle, to get rid of the pain. I’m hoping for a lumber injection, of a new cocktail of drugs, but the NHS wait is seven months.

I don’t know how long it will take to recover, if ever. Until then I can’t work as a steel erector, drive or use machines because of the drugs I take. By the time I recover, I might be 50, so work will be harder to get.

The company sick pay stopped when I made an injury claim. I used my savings, then ran out of money. To pay the rent, my father lent me money, but we still had to scrimp and scrape. We’ve managed to stay in the house, but we’ve built up debts.

The company offered me very little help, but now they have support in place if you’re injured. I’m still on their books, but they don’t offer it to me. They’ve blanked me since the claim.

A colleague referred me to Helen Clifford when the doctors identified the need for surgery. She told me there’s nothing wrong with making a claim, and helped me to apply for benefits. Even then, it took months for them to be paid.

Helen’s been fantastic. She always asks how I am, and if I’ve been down, she’s referred me to people who can help. She’s gone above and beyond, kept me up to date on everything, explained everything, been honest and realistic from the start.

She’s helped me out in all sorts of ways: like getting help from the Government. I’ve worked all my life, never taken something for nothing. I’m proud, I’ve paid in all my life, don’t want benefits, it’s hard to ask for help. But after the work stopped, our money ran out, it became ridiculous getting help. The jobcentre say I can work because I can walk on crutches, so I get no PIP.

Helen told me what I could apply for, and how to do it. She sent details of my case, and letters of support. If Helen hadn’t been around to do that, adding her authority, the DSS would not have believed me.

The settlement has been fantastic, but there are still difficult choices to make. It’s future – based, and we don’t know what the future will be. I need occupational health therapy, for example, but it could be very expensive. Can we afford private medicine, or do we stay with the NHS?

I’ve got to keep positive, for my family. I’ve never spent so much time at home, but the disability is a hindrance. Still, I do my best. The pain is a barrier, it holds you back, but I’m strong minded, and I’m not shying away from anything. There’s always someone worse off than me.

If you’ve been injured at work, contact me to make a compensation claim.