A firefighter has received £1.5m in compensation after a training injury led to the amputation of his right hand.

In 2014, Ian McDonald, 37, was involved in an exercise at Bishopbriggs Fire Station in Glasgow.

Faulty cutting gear caused a jet of toxic hydraulic fluid to pierce his leather safety gloves and he was taken to hospital with a painful, swollen hand.

Hospital staff found a tiny red dot like a splinter which turned out to be a puncture wound. Pic: Digby Brown
Image:
Hospital staff found a tiny red dot like a splinter which turned out to be a puncture wound. Pic: Digby Brown

Initially, specialists amputated his right little finger, but a year later his ring finger was also removed.

Then last June he was admitted to the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, where he had his third amputation, at the wrist.

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Speaking about the incident, Mr McDonald, who was right-handed, revealed the pain was “agonising and nothing would stop it.”

He said: “I had no idea what was going on. My hand felt like it was on fire and was swollen with a painful throbbing feeling.

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“When hospital staff examined me they saw a tiny red dot like a skelf (splinter) which turned out to be a puncture wound.

“Then, when blood tests revealed I was poisoned, we realised something happened with the cutting gear. When I heard the full hand had to go, the idea of being pain-free made it easier to accept.”

Ian with his daughter Ava before his right hand was amputated. Pic: Digby Brown
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With his daughter Ava before his right hand was amputated. Pic: Digby Brown

The father-of-four, from Bishopbriggs, welcomed pastoral care from the Fire Brigades Union, but instead chose his own lawyers to access a specialist prosthetic instead of a “hook” offered by the NHS.

He added: “I understand the NHS can’t afford fancy prosthetics, but the hook has limited uses while my new arm restores more normality to my life.

“I can hold mugs, phones, change my daughter’s nappy, and after adapting my steering wheel the DVLA confirmed I could still drive.

Ian McDonald says he can hold mugs, phones and change his daughter's nappy using his prosthetic hand. Pic: Digby Brown
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Ian McDonald says he can hold mugs and phones using his prosthetic hand. Pic: Digby Brown

“I’ve still a way to go but after the support of my family, the doctors and colleagues I finally feel like the dark days are behind me.”

He is now recovering at home with his wife Claire, 33, and their daughters Ava, 11, Thea, eight months, and sons Lucas, seven, and Noah, three.

“I was injured but it’s really Claire the accident happened to – she basically raises four kids, runs a household, manages her business and helps me.”

Ian McDonald says after adapting his steering wheel the DVLA confirmed he could still drive. Pic: Digby Brown
Image:
Ian McDonald says after adapting his steering wheel the DVLA confirmed he could still drive. Pic: Digby Brown

His lawyer David Nellaney, partner at Digby Brown’s Glasgow office, said that, although the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) was “undoubtedly a safety-conscious organisation”, on this occasion “it failed in its duty of care to an employee.”

He said: “No settlement can alter the past, but it can improve the future – and in Ian’s case it will provide access to ongoing medical treatment and ease the financial implications of this workplace injury.

The 37-year-old needed 40 operations, but after a four-year battle, medics were forced to amputate. Pic: Digby Brown
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The 37-year-old needed 40 operations before medics were forced to amputate. Pic: Digby Brown

“Additionally, I’d hope this case has resulted in SFRS personnel benefiting from improvements to the safety of their equipment and procedures.”

David McGown, SFRS deputy chief officer, said it was “extremely heartening to see that he continues to make a strong recovery.”

He also insisted that after a “robust investigation” into what happened, it conducted a “review of equipment and related safety checks” and took appropriate steps to “minimise the risk of similar incidents happening in the future.”

Mr McGown added: “This included the removal of all third-party hoses and replacement with original equipment manufacturer parts and we also undertook a review of the latest technologies available for future purchases and replacements, to minimise risk to staff.”