Essex dad's legs crushed after smashing into stranded lorry on M25. He thought he would never walk again.
(Article mentions seeing a powerful, bright, white light before him. Being weightless floating towards a distant light.)
August 29, 2021 - Reported [here]. One moment Stefan Avadani was driving down the M25 - the next moment, everything went black. It was 2.30pm on July 17 earlier this year when the 38-year-old in his lorry smashed into the back of another HGV which had broken down near Lakeside. In those surreal moments after the impact of the crash, Stefan vividly remembers seeing a powerful, bright, white light before him.
The dad-of-one from Grays felt his body become "weightless" and feel as if it was floating towards the distant light. It was only when he turned around and saw his wife, Jutka, and his six-year-old son looking back at him that Stefan suddenly woke to find himself trapped and crushed in the front of his lorry. Unbelievably still alive, for the next hour, Stefan remembers firefighters and paramedics fighting to cut him free and rush him to hospital. Even though he feared he may never walk again, Stefan knew in that moment, he had been given a second chance to live.
Stefan had been nearing the end of his shift on the afternoon of that fateful day. He remembers spotting a sign shortly before the collision, which warned drivers there was a stranded vehicle. Spotting the sign, Stefan remembers pulling into the second lane to avoid a lorry and car, which were sat stationary in the first lane. He drove past them and pulled back into the first lane to continue the journey. What he didn't realise, he claims, was that just moments after, there was another stranded lorry.
"The last thing I remember was slamming on the break and hearing something in my ears like a very strong noise and then I lost consciousness," Stefan said. "From the bottom of my heart, I saw a white light. It was a very bright and strong white light. "I couldn't see anything else apart from that. It was really far away but at some point I started feeling weightless and floating towards the white light. "It felt real and I was going towards the light. At some point, I turned my head and looking down I saw my wife and my son. "Then I woke up and I was in the lorry. It took me about five seconds to realise what happened." "I thought that's it, I'm never going to walk again"
Stefan managed to switch off the ignition and scrambled to try and take off his seatbelt as it crushed his chest. "It was a mess," he said. "I don't know how I survived that incident. "I started feeling a very big pain on my legs and I saw the dashboard crushing my legs. I said [to myself] I need to start moving my legs but I tried to move and I couldn't. "I kept doing that and at some point I started preparing myself for the worst. I thought that's it, I'm never going to walk again, I have to get used to this."
It didn't take long for the emergency services to arrive, with numerous fire engines, police cars, ambulances and an air ambulance. It took the crews around an hour-and-a-half to cut Stefan free from the vehicle before he was rushed to hospital. He remembers dozens of emergency workers doing everything they could to reassure him and get him out of the crushed lorry. "There were so many people," he said. "One of my main goals once I'm able to and healthy is to go and thank every single person that took part in this incident and go back to hospital. "They were such a professional team - that's a job where you do not go for money, it's just because you love human beings. "I think God gave me a second chance at life but without those professional people I wouldn't be here. "Every single person thought I was not going to walk again but no one said that, they encouraged me and kept telling me it will be okay and I believed them - it made me stronger."
At the hospital, Stefan was pumped with injections and quickly sent to the operating theatre. He remembers his legs were "nearly exploding" where they had been cut off from his blood circulation for so long. The 38-year-old had four fractured ribs, a fractured sternum, severe crushed leg syndrome, perforated lungs and needed stitching to his knees, head and hand. "At the beginning though they would have to amputate my leg and they told me this, I thought it was still a blessing to lose only one leg," he said. "I had the operation and they told me it went well and they had saved my leg." The bones in Stefan's left leg had to be restructured because of the severe damage but the surgeons managed to save it.
After three weeks in hospital, Stefan was able to come home on August 7 with crutches and physio arranged. He is doing well but looking at several months of recovery - meaning he won't be able to work. As the sole earner in his household, and with his wife Jutka spending her time caring for him, he fears they will not cope without financial support. Hearing about Stefan's situation, one of his close friends set up a [fundraiser] to start raising money for the family in their moment of need. "We didn't have any savings as my wife has had to study the last five years and I have carried my whole family with only me working," Stefan said. "Luckily I have got some amazing friends who set up a fundraiser. I can't express in words what it means - I am so glad and want to thank every single person - they helped so much in a very difficult time."
Stefan's six-year-old son Yannis is taking his daddy's recovery well so far and has offered to bring his dad "whatever he wants" at the "snap of his fingers". For Stefan, he only hopes that once he is back on his feet and recovered he can spend his life dedicated to his family. "I think that I have been given a second chance to complete my plan on earth," he said. "I know have to change stuff in my life, it was a wake up call. It was as emotional as well as it was terrible. "I used to wake up first thing in the morning and middle of night to go to work for ten, eleven, twelve hours. But instead of spending time in traffic, I would rather spend time with family."