Dog walker is lucky to be alive after cattle attack

Lorraine, Brodie and Stuart before he was trampled.
Lorraine, Brodie and Stuart before he was trampled.

A Braidwood man is lucky to have escaped with his life after being attacked by cattle near Robiesland in Lanark.

Stuart Stevenson’s injuries include a broken spine, broken leg and broken ribs.

Despite those, he walked a mile and a half to New Lanark for help - then was unable to walk the final 10ft into Wishaw General’s accident and emergency department.

And it will be months before Stuart, a keen swimmer cyclist, and photographer, is back to health.

The attack happened as Stuart walked his bearded collie Brodie on June 11 - the following day a retired Oxford professor was trampled to death in East Sussex in similar circumstances.

Stuart, 47, had set out from Lanark racecourse for an eight-mile loop round Lanark and New Lanark.

Following a path, he noticed the cows, but walked on as they did not usually bother with him, and the dog was on the lead.

But then one or two “seemed to take exception to the dog” and came running over to attack Brodie.

“They appeared to be trying to stand on him, so I tried to get him away, and got knocked over,” said Stuart.

“I was up fairly quickly, and rushed to get the dog. By now there were many more cows.

“I tried to pick him up. One of the cows butted me and I was knocked onto the grass.

“The cows then kicked and stood on me.

“I thought, ‘This is it - unless I can get back on my feet, I’m going to be trampled to death’.

“I must have gone into a ball using my hands to protect my head, which possibly saved me.

“All my injuries are on the right - broken right leg. three broken ribs on my right, fractured spine on the right, soft tissue damage to right arm and hand; but thankfully there is no internal damage to any organs.

“And even more lucky, the spinal fracture was lower back, missing the spinal cord, therefore avoiding possible paralysis by a few centimetres.

”If it had been an inch higher, I would have been paralysed,” he said.

Stuart somehow managed to get up and, he thinks fuelled by adrenaline or shock and not realising the extent of his injuries, managed to grab the dog and run towards a fence and haul himself over it.

He phoned his wife Lorraine , asking her to collect him, but being in an inaccessible spot, he climbed back over the fence and walked to Bonnington power station, and along the Clyde walkway to New Lanark where she and her father were waiting to drive him to hospital.

“When I got to A&E I couldn’t walk the 10ft into reception,” he said. “I’ve no idea how I managed walk all the way back to New Lanark.

“Fortunately my wife’s a medical nurse practitioner, so she knew exactly what to do. She was also able to help advise hospital staff about what had happened.

“Within a very short time I was in a full trauma situation - clothes cut off, wired up to machines and given multiple doses of morphine for the pain. I was taken for MRI scans, which revealed the extent of my injuries.”

Stuart was still unaware of how serious it was, until the consultant told him the spinal fracture was particularly nasty, and that he may not get back to how he was before the accident.

He was immobilised, confined to bed in hospital for two weeks, then fitted with a back brace and allowed home for bed rest there. If he continues to improve he will start rehabilitation with a physiotherapist next month.

“It could take three to four months to get back,” said Stuart, a graphic designer. “However I do know it could have been much much worse. I’m very thankful it wasn’t.”

Official advice, in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, is to let the dog go if cows become aggressive, and get out of the field.

Stuart does not know whether that would have made a difference, and he was more concerned about Brodie even as he was attacked. But he feels lucky to be alive, grateful for the medical treatment, and hopes to make a good recovery after what could easily have been a tragedy.