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Real life: My daughter was impaled while climbing a tree in our garden – it was terrifying

Darcey, six, fell on a spiky branch which went through her arm. Read her story…

Darcey got impaled in a tree
Sophie Hamilton
Parenting Editor
9 June 2023
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Like most parents, Suzie, a mum-of-four from Hampshire, loves to see her children enjoying time outdoors together, but last October the normal fun and games took a scary turn.

Her six-year-old daughter Darcey had a nasty accident while climbing a tree in their garden – a tree that the children had climbed on many occasions. Thanks to Suzie and her husband's quick thinking and fantastic work by the fire brigade and hospital, Darcey completely recovered from the accident.

Below, as part of Child Safety Week which runs from 5 to11 June, Suzie shares her family's story with HELLO!...

The accident

"It all happened one Sunday afternoon at about 3pm. We'd been doing some DIY during the day and the children suddenly all said, 'Can we play in the garden?' and I said, 'Yeah of course you can,' so they all went outside.

I started getting the Sunday roast ready and the next thing I know, there's screaming in the garden. One of the twins, who were eight at the time, comes racing into the house saying: 'Darcey's stuck in the tree!'

The family garden with the tree in the background
The family garden with the tree in the background

At first we thought, oh she's stuck on a branch high up the tree and can't get down, but her screaming got worse, so we realised it was really bad – this all happened in seconds at the time. Both my husband and I ran outside and she's hanging in the tree with a branch straight through her arm.

She wasn't even that high, probably about six feet up, but she'd tried to jump the last bit and had fallen onto a broken branch that had a spikey bit on the top – it had gone straight through her arm. She was hanging in the tree by her arm.

My husband immediately lifted her so that she wasn't using her weight. She's got really long blonde hair and some of her hair had been pushed through her arm with the branch – it was hard to tell what she'd actually done. There was minimal blood because the branch was in her arm.

She was screaming, so I phoned 999 and asked for an ambulance but they actually sent the fire brigade out. It wasn't that long till they came, about 35 to 40 minutes, but it felt like forever.

My first reaction was to saw the branch off, which was a small branch, and release her from the tree. The paramedic on the phone said I definitely shouldn't do that; we should leave her in the tree. They said if we moved the branch and it had gone through an artery, the blood would start pouring out.

My poor husband was there holding her up at about five foot high, which doesn't sound that bad, but when you're holding an 18 kilo child, it's heavy."

Darcey was helped down from the tree by the fire service
Darcey was helped down from the tree by the fire service

Help arrives

"The fire brigade came and they were amazing. They were so worried about dislodging anything in her arm because we didn't know what had gone through that they didn't want to use electric tree saws. They used what looked like a nail file and very slowly filed this branch off the tree.

When the branch was sawn off, they released Darcey into my husband's arms, and he put her down onto the grass. In this time, Darcey had gone from absolutely hysterical to completely silent.

The fire brigade had a paramedics kit and gave her gas and air because she was shaking violently, she was in so much shock. They took her pulse and examined her, and they strapped her arm to her side.

The fire service saw the branch stuck in Darcey's arm
The fire service saw the branch stuck in Darcey's arm

We waited for the ambulance, but it never came. After about an hour and a half the fire brigade called to find out about the ambulance and were told there was a six-hour wait.

Although they had stabilized Darcey with gas and air, the branch in her arm was too big for us to strap her in the car, so the fire brigade had to cut the branch smaller so we could strap her in and get to A&E.

The fire service were really positive. My initial reaction was 'Oh my god, we're going to have to flatten the entire garden; she can never climb trees again'. They were like, 'No, no, you mustn't do that, it's good for children to play in the garden, don't worry these things happen, you haven't done anything wrong'."

Darcey goes to hospital
Darcey goes to hospital

MORE:  5 life-saving first aid tips for parents to know 

At the hospital

"When we got to the hospital, they were amazing – she went straight through and was seen.

I'd regrettably given Darcey some sugary squash to drink at home to help stop her shaking, but it meant she had to wait six hours for her to be ready for surgery, because she had stuff in her stomach. She was operated on at about 11pm.

If you squeeze the bingo wing bit on your arm, that's the bit the branch had gone through.

The branch in Darcey's arm
The branch in Darcey's arm

Luckily it hadn't gone through any muscle, arteries or bone, but it had gone straight through, so they did have to cut away the skin on the outside because the skin was starting to die. They took the branch out then stitched her up. She was so fortunate she didn't lose the use of her arm.

She had a bandage on for a week and was told not to move it or bathe it, then we went back to hospital and they examined it. It healed really fast because she's young. She's got a red scar now on her arm and thankfully it's on the underside."

Darcey recovering in hospital
Darcey recovering in hospital

After the accident

"Darcey doesn't remember the accident much; her mind has almost blanked it out.

She remembers falling in the tree and she knows she had a branch in her arm, but if you ask her for any details, she has no idea. I think it's the body's way of protecting you from trauma.

Darcey's bandaged arm
Darcey's bandaged arm

I'm really squeamish, but as a parent, when something like this happens, you run on adrenaline. You do whatever you need to do and get through it.

It was only really in the days following that I felt overwhelmed and emotional and all the what ifs went through my mind. What if she'd lost her arm?

I felt terrible that I'd let it happen. Everyone was like, 'What do you mean let it happen? She played in the garden.' I could never have controlled it, but I think both my husband and I definitely suffered trauma afterwards.

I'm just so thankful she still has her arm – if the branch had been millimeters in one way, it would have gone straight through an artery, muscle or bone and that would have been a completely different situation. She could have lost her arm or lost the use of her arm. In the hospital they said we were so lucky it just hit fatty tissue."

Darcey after the branch was removed
Darcey after the branch was removed

Looking back

"When I look back at the accident, I don't know what I would have done differently.

Maybe I wouldn't have given her the sugary drinks, but that was my natural reaction – she was shaking, and I didn't think about the fact she might be operated on. I naively thought they would just pull the branch out. I certainly wouldn't have stopped them playing in the garden.

I never imagined an accident like this would happen to my child, but things can happen in a split second.

Now when our kids play in the garden, our twins are really funny about climbing trees because they saw the accident happen and felt helpless, they didn't know what to do. Imagine seeing your sister hanging by her arm in a tree.

Darcey still enjoys climbing trees despite what happened, but not in that tree anymore. All the kids avoid that tree now!"

For more information on Child Safety Week see

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