August 9, 2019
Following a road traffic accident in 2013, in which her husband lost his life and left Wendy Arrandale, his pillion passenger, with very serious injuries, Wendy could have been forgiven for deciding that she never wanted to see, let alone get back on a motorbike again.
However, lying in her hospital bed, after regaining consciousness, her first words to her sister were;
“Before you start, I will be getting back on a bike!”
In the 6 years that have passed since the terrible, tragic events of the 13th July 2013 and despite all that Wendy has been through, she has never wavered in her determination to ensure that those words came true.
Wendy, 49 years old at the time of the accident and her husband Tony 62, both experienced bikers, were travelling along the M6 southbound when tragedy struck and they became involved in a serious motorcycle accident. They were riding down to Plymouth to catch a ferry to Faro, Portugal for a biker’s rally. An articulated lorry suffered a tyre blow out, throwing debris onto the carriageway. This caused Tony to lose control of his motorcycle.
For Tony, sadly, it was a fatal accident. Wendy was airlifted to Staffordshire General Hospital. She had been thrown clear from the bike and collided with the central reservation of the motorway.
Life Changing Injuries
Wendy sustained life-changing injuries. These included suffering a complete brachial plexus avulsion (a tearing away of the network of nerves from the spinal cord). As a result of this, Wendy’s left arm had to be amputated above the elbow. Her ruptured spleen and left kidney were removed at the hospital. She suffered a brain haemorrhage and sustained fractures to her collarbone, spine, ribs and the fingers of the right hand.
After a stay in hospital of five weeks, she was discharged to continue the long road to any form of recovery, in her own home. However, her need for round the clock care meant that her son and daughter in law had to move back in to live with Wendy so they could look after her. Financial concerns soon came to the fore. Unable to work and with the loss of Tony’s income too, Wendy was forced onto SSP benefits. Her ever worsening financial crisis forced her into selling her home. After the accident, she suffered from memory loss and in her own words, other ‘mental health issues.’ On top of everything else, she had to deal with the loss of Tony and the arrangements for, and the ordeal of, his funeral.
The motor cycle community became a source of strength
A major source of strength right from those early days was the biker community. Recognising her financial plight, the Motorcycle Action Group (MAG) and the Mhoddey Dhoo, a motorcycle club from the Isle of Man, helped to raise money to pay for Tony’s funeral. They also funded the planting of a tree in his memory through the ‘Life for Life’ charity. This scheme was set up specifically to benefit those individuals and families grieving over the loss of a loved one. Wendy says that she often spends hours at Tony’s tree and believes that she gains inspiration from there.
Wendy’s determination to remain being an active biker saw her ride pillion as soon as she was physically able to. Whatever challenges that have been and are still being put in Wendy’s path, she has ensured that she rides as a passenger on a regular basis. She has a new partner and every weekend sees them going out on the bike. Recently, they took a trip to Ireland.
When asked how she felt on the first occasion that she got back on a bike, Wendy, without hesitation said;
“It was easy and that is because I never blamed the bike. The bike was not responsible for the accident and the injuries that I have suffered. In fact, if I had had the same type of accident in a car, I would have been dead. I’m sure of that. Being on the bike meant that I was thrown free. In a car, I’d have been crushed to death”
Every year since the accident, bar one, Wendy has had to undergo surgery. As a result of having her left arm amputated, Wendy suffered from breast lymphoedema, a swelling caused by a build-up of lymph fluid in the surface tissues of the body. This necessitated double breast reduction surgery.
Further surgery has been required to alleviate a problem with discs in her spine that caused pins and needles in her arms. She then had to have surgery to reshape the stump at her amputation site. She underwent a gall bladder removal and further intervention has been required to tackle a growth hormone deficiency that she had developed.
When we spoke to Wendy, she was preparing to go down to London to have surgery for TMR – Targeted Muscle Reinnervation. The aim of TMR is to enable arm amputees to use a prosthetic arm, intuitively. Although Wendy was provided with a prosthetic arm some 2 ½ years after the accident, she found it cumbersome and therefore no longer uses it.
‘It was fitted with a hook on the end of it and I also had to use a harness with it, which was too awkward and heavy’ says Wendy.
She has managed without a prosthetic arm since. However, after undergoing her latest operation, Wendy hopes this will be the next step to having a new, more functional type of prosthetic arm, known as ‘myoelectric prosthetics’. This type of prosthesis uses electronic sensors to activate movement of the arm in much the way as a normal arm would operate. Wendy also hopes to have a bike arm made so she can ride a solo bike in the future. The downside is that the cost of this advanced technology does not come cheaply.
Change of Solicitor
Thankfully for Wendy, last year she concluded a motorcycle accident compensation claim that was originally started some 8 months after the accident happened. When Wendy’s healthcare case manager Theresa was appointed just under a year later, she got the impression that Wendy’s claim hadn’t made any real progress in the preceding 10 months. Theresa suggested to Wendy that she might benefit from changing her solicitors. Chesterfield-based, serious injury claims specialists, Spencers solicitors picked up the baton. They sourced a new case manager, Judith, and at last Wendy started to see some progress being made.
Tackling Wendy’s particularly parlous finances were a priority. As a result of her new solicitors’ tenacity and experience, Wendy started to receive substantial interim payments i.e. payments on account, from the ongoing compensation claim.
Wendy’s motorbike compensation claim was recently settled for a seven-figure sum. This included an amount for the cost of future rehabilitation. The settlement figure also took into consideration that Wendy would have future loss.
The settlement will allow Wendy to trial using the myoelectric prosthetic arm. With the considerable help of the National Association for Bikers with a Disability (NABD), Wendy is in the process of having a specially adapted bike or trike built for her, which will enable her to achieve her goal of being able to ride solo again.
Wendy has nothing but praise for her solicitors;
“The Serious Injury Team at Spencers, have been magnificent, as were my barristers, Michael Jones and Richard Hartley QC. Without the lawyers working so hard on my case, which was a hugely complicated one with everything that has been wrong with me, I’m not sure where I’d be today. Likewise, my case manager Judith has been magnificent too. A real rock.”
When it’s put to Wendy that she is a real inspiration to others, she dismisses the idea;
“I don’t see myself as an inspiration. I think making the progress that I have, is down to lots of other people too – my partner, my son and daughter in law, my case worker and my solicitors Spencers. However, it is also in no small part down to the love, warmth and support I have received from my local biker community, the NABD and the biker fraternity generally. We are a family and when one of us is down the rest rally round.”
As we draw our chat to an end, Wendy offers one further thought;
“If you really want to know in a nutshell why I think I am still here and battling on, it's because of the way we bikers are made. We have a hugely strong survival instinct.”
Wendy may not think of herself as an inspiration, but we suspect that most others would disagree with her about that!
Spencers Solicitors are experts in serious injury compensation claims. They can be contacted on 08000 93 00 94 or online. Initial advice is free of charge and if you decide to use our services to pursue your personal injury claim, in most cases this can be done by using a No Win, No Fee arrangement.