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Judge recalls being treated in the same Grenoble hospital as Michael Schumacher
6:00am Wednesday 1st January 2014 in News
Bradford’s leading judge has told how the similarities between a ski accident he suffered in the 1990s and that of Formula One champion Michael Schumacher have brought back difficult memories for his family.
The Recorder of Bradford, Judge Roger Thomas QC, almost died when he was in a ski accident in the French Alps in 1997, but was in a lucky small percentage who recovered from such a head injury – and he hopes Mr Schumacher will do the same.
Mr Schumacher has improved slightly, but remains in a critical condition at the University Hospital of Grenoble, after hitting his head on a rock in a skiing accident in Meribel, in the French Alps, on Sunday.
Judge Thomas described his accident as a “blueprint” of that of the racing driver – the main difference being that the judge, of Huddersfield, was not wearing a helmet when he crashed. He was a similar age to Mr Schumacher and treated at the same hospital, which he said is at the “cutting edge of French neurosurgery.”
“The interesting thing for me is that I’ve no memory of anything much about it. I was skiing one day and six weeks later I woke up in Pinderfields in Wakefield,” Judge Thomas said.
He said what was critical to his recovery was the speed at which he was treated. “The good thing for Schumacher, and for me it was exactly the same, is being treated straight away as it happened.
“I was found at the bottom at some rocks bleeding to death. I immediately got treatment and was airlifted straight from the slope to hospital. It’s a fantastically great hospital,” Judge Thomas said. “I went back a year after my accident. It was the first time I’d ever seen it, as I arrived in an air ambulance and was taken away by one six weeks later.
“I was a success story – whatever happened to me there absolutely worked.”
Like Mr Schumacher, 44, Judge Thomas was kept in an induced coma for part of his treatment, to stay stable and quiet, and give the best chance of recovery.
He said during the first four or five days after the accident, doctors would be trying to relieve the pressure on Mr Schumacher’s brain and hoping he would come round – then the question of how the injury would affect him could be answered.
Judge Thomas’s accident happened in March 1997 and six months later his wife, Vanessa, was told by the neurosurgeon treating him that he may not be able to continue in a professional role.
“He told my wife, but not me, and that really spurred me on. I thought ‘I’m not having that.’ I had to work really hard to make myself better,” he said.
Physiotherapy was needed to help Judge Thomas walk again and over a year later he was fit enough to return to work, part-time, as a recorder and senior barrister at Broadway House Bank Chambers in Bank Street.
“My wife and my family, they were the ones at the sharp end of it, living through the whole experience,” he said.
“For my wife and family and children it was the most terrible of things. When this subject comes up they find it much more upsetting than I do. It was more raw for them.”
Since the accident Judge Thomas has been appointed Queen’s Counsel and in 2012 became the Recorder of Bradford.