Fatal crash survivor is back in running for Great North Run

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A MAN whose body was shattered in a horror crash that claimed his wife’s life will astonishingly take part in tomorrow’s Great North Run.

Phil Holbrook was left with 30 broken bones, including a shattered pelvis, and had to learn to walk again after the smash on the A689 road near to Greatham Village, in Hartlepool, two days before Christmas in 2012.

Phil Holbrook

Phil Holbrook

He also had to face the devastation of losing his 48-year-old wife Sally, who was killed when she was driving a blue Vauxhall Agila when it was involved in a collision with a black Ford Focus near to the Dalton Back Lane.

Phil, 53, a careers advisor, was left in a coma with a string of horrendous injuries including 20 broken ribs, six breaks to his pelvis, shoulder blade and collar bone fractures, a severed coccyx (the bone at the bottom of the spine), broken bones in his left arm, two spinal breaks and nerve damage to his left side.

For weeks Phil could only communicate by squeezing the hands of friends, family and medics, to answer yes or no, and doctors feared he would never walk again.

But the Hartlepool United fan regained consciousness after two weeks and was left in agony in bed resting for a further six weeks to see if his injuries would heal, while at the same time dealing with the emotional devastation of losing his precious Sally.

And after having just one operation to pin and plate the breaks in his left arm, Phil was hoisted out of bed and into a chair.

From there his fighting spirit and the memory of Sally saw him overcome his horrific physical injuries, and he took his first steps about three months later when surgeons gave him the go ahead to put both feet on the floor.

All the time, Phil – who has run the half-marathon 22 times before, with Sally completing it three times – had in his mind that he would take part in the Great North Run again one day in memory of Sally, his wife of 15 years.

And after 88 nights in hospital, Phil was allowed to return to his home on the Fens estate in Hartlepool, where his confidence and enthusiasm was boosted further by his own surroundings.

He came on leaps and bounds and completed his first run in January this year, just over a year after the crash which changed his life.

Phil, who turns 54 tomorrow on the day of the run which he is doing with family and friends, and the couple’s dog Candy, as part of Team Sally, said: “I never thought I was going to die but I did wonder what the future was going to hold for me.

“The Great North Run was always a target even when I was lying in bed but how realistic that was I didn’t know.

“But I just decided that I had to fight. I knew my life was going to be so different but you just have to adapt.

“I don’t have the same life, but I have a life.

“There’s not a day that goes by when I didn’t think of Sally, but I could either crumble or get on.

“I decided to get on.”

He added: “I think Sally would be pleased that we were doing the run. It’s always emotional but it will be particularly emotional at the run.”

Phil has been training about three times a week and has managed to run about 10 miles, and has taken part in a number of Park Runs in the area, as well as a gruelling 26-mile Three Peaks Walk, in Yorkshire.

He will be pushed to his limit tomorrow in the charity run of 13.1 miles, which he is doing to raise cash for Hartlepool and District Hospice, the same charity which he and Sally have supported doing the run in the past.