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Not so simples: Gardener impales hand on Compare the Meerkat ornament

A DIY gardener had a lucky escape after he impaled his hand on a screwdriver — while trying to change the batteries in a novelty Compare the Meerkat ornament.

Neil Diggens, 58, was making his way round his garden replacing the batteries in a few solar-powered ornaments when the shocking incident happened.

When he got to the last ornament, he found that unscrewing the bottom of the novelty meerkat was not so ‘simples’ — so he went to fetch his bigger, foot-long screwdriver.

Handy: The Meerkat garden ornament

But Neil put too much pressure on the ornament and the screwdriver slipped, piercing right through the battery pack, the lightbulb — and Neil’s left hand.

Neil, an assistant venues manager from Wivenhoe, Essex, rushed to Colchester Hospital with his wife Julia, 60, where he was taken straight into surgery to remove the screwdriver — and the meerkat.

He said: ‘I think once they’d got it out, all the doctors and trainee staff thought it was pretty hilarious.

‘I can’t imagine they see many people coming in with a meerkat attached to their hand.’

Recalling the incident, which happened at the beginning of April, Neil said: ‘I couldn’t get the screws off with my small screwdriver.

‘So I went inside and got my proper one, which is about a foot long.

‘I put pressure on to the screw, and the screwdriver went through the battery pack and out the other side.

‘If it had been any of the other three screws on the battery pack that I had been unscrewing, it wouldn’t have gone through like that, because of the way they lined up.

‘I remember immediately thinking “ouch”, but it wasn’t until I actually turned my hand over that I saw the screwdriver was sticking out the other side by about an inch.

‘Luckily my wife, Julia, is a nurse, so I quickly went to the kitchen window and showed her and said, “We need to go to the hospital”.’

Brave Neil, who is right-handed so was still able to use his dominant hand, even hopped in the driver’s seat and drove halfway to the hospital, while Julia called 111 to book an appointment.

Neil said: ‘It didn’t really start to hurt until about ten to 15 minutes after it happened — on our way to the hospital.

‘By the time we got there it was really starting to hurt. Luckily, there was only one other person in the waiting room ahead of me, so I pretty much went straight into surgery.

‘They did a movement test to see what damage had been done but they found it had gone straight through between the two fingers, and I hadn’t done any serious damage.

‘The doctor then just grabbed it and pulled it out.

‘It was stuck in my hand for about an hour and a half in total, but it was quite quick to take it out.’

He added: ‘It really was extremely lucky. I could have damaged my fingers or hand for life. If it had been a centimetre either way it could have been bad.’

Luckily, Neil’s hand has made a full recovery, save for a small scar, and the incident has not put him off gardening or DIY.

As for the meerkat — it is back in its original spot in the garden, but is now just being used as an ornament, rather than a solar light.