A shattered neck - but Martin's still walking! Grandad's recovery after bike accident.
The 52-year-old was thrown 20ft headfirst over the handlebars of his bike as he swerved to miss a sheep while doing the coast-to-coast cycle route in August last year.
Doctors feared he would never walk again but the hardy grandad-of-seven made a "miraculous" recovery despite enduring the most severe form of neck fracture.
Martin, of Norton, Stockton, said: "We were two days into the bike ride and we were on the stretch just coming over the top of the Pennines heading towards Leyburn.
"We were coming down a steep hill and I was probably going quite fast and we came to a tight bend.
"My bike was only two weeks old so the brakes were handling brilliantly and this sheep came out and I thought, 'I can't run it over'. I didn't want to go on the side track because I would definitely come off but I just thought I would ride it out and as I came off road I hit a ditch and came off about 20ft and smashed my helmet."
Luckily, Martin was with his brother and four friends who were on hand to get help as he lay unable to move.
Frantically they tried to contact the emergency services but couldn't get any signal on their mobile phones. They finally managed to get in touch with the Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS) via a local pub but Martin had to endure an excruciating 40-minute wait for the helicopter to arrive. He added: "My neck was broken in three places and I had a fracture that not many people survive from.
It was a C1 fracture and not many people can actually walk around and tell you about it.
It's what Christopher Reeves had after he fell off a horse."
Unaware of the seriousness of his injuries, Martin lay on the ground surrounded by his friends and despite their pleas for him to stay still he kept trying to move as he was in so much pain. He said: "It was getting cold, it was about 5pm and it had started to rain, the guys were lying by the side of me and trying to keep me warm.
I was lying there thinking 'when's this helicopter coming - I can't hang on much longer'. "Then I could hear it coming in the distance and it was such a relief.
I knew I was going to be OK.
The Air Ambulance paramedics were amazingly professional and reassuring under very difficult conditions.
They made sure I was safe and secure before trying to move me." He was flown to James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough, where doctors couldn't believe he still had feeling in his legs and his arms despite the severity of his injuries. "The doctor said: 'You're one lucky guy'.
I didn't feel that lucky at the time.
I was laid flat for two whole weeks just to let the swelling go down," added Martin. Once Martin was well enough he had to have a "halo" fitted, which he lived with for four months before deciding to undergo a risky operation to repair the damage to his neck.
He said: "I had to sign my life away before the surgery.
They said you might lose feeling in your legs, you might be paralysed or you might die if we nip this nerve.
But the surgeon was a miracle worker." And the chirpy grandad still managed to keep his sense of humour and positive attitude throughout the long recovery process - even dressing the "halo" up at Halloween and Christmas time. Now that he is back to health Martin, who works as a trainer for Vauxhall Finance, and his family have joined forces to raise some money for the GNAAS. Wife Eileen kick-started the fundraising by holding a jewellery party where she sold more than pounds 400 worth of goods and Martin added to that total by taking part in a Boxing Day dip at Redcar beach. He roped in a group of family and friends, including children Kate, 26, Chris, 22 and Michael, 17, to join him in the chilly waters in a bid to raise pounds 2,500 - which is the amount it costs the GNAAS for each patient they attend to. Martin said: "The paramedics on the flight were just fantastic.
When I was in the hospital I was like 'guys don't go until you say goodbye'.
" Anyone who would like to donate money to Martin and his family's efforts can log on to www.justgiving.be/Martin-McGough
FIGHTING BACK TO HEALTH: Martin McGough, with his family at home in Norton, left to right, Chris, 22, Eileen and Michael, 17. Chris, below left, with wife Eileen. INJURY: Martin, left, was forced to wear a protective 'halo' before ungoing surgery to repair damage to his neck