A WOMAN who survived life-threatening injuries after being gored by a stag in the Highlands has spoken publicly of her ordeal for the first time.
Dr Kate Stone was in the garden of a private property in Lochailort near Fort William, where she had been invited for drinks with friends, when the stag knocked her over, impaling her throat with its antlers.
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She was taken to Belford Hospital in Fort William in the early hours of December 30 and then airlifted to the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow as a result of the incident. She was then put in an induced coma for a week.
Dr Stone, a scientist from Cambridge who is currently recovering at her sister's home in Dundee, said she is "still only realising the magnitude of what's happened".
While in the coma, she underwent two operations on her windpipe. It is believed the animal had become trapped in the garden and was trying to make its escape when it struck Dr Stone.
It left the 44-year-old with damaged vocal cords and a fractured neck after its antler went through her trachea and oesophagus. She remained in intensive care for around two weeks and it was three weeks before she took her first steps.
She said she remembers walking through the garden gate at the house in Lochailort, where she had been invited after attending a ceilidh in the nearby Lochailort Inn, and feeling "a massive thud... and then a second thud".
"I shouted for my friends to come over," she said. "At first they thought I was joking, but they could tell by the way I was gurgling, rather than speaking, and my neck was all cut open ... it became clear I couldn't breathe or speak properly.
"A friend told me to focus on breathing so I remained very calm and I just did one breath in, one breath out. And that's what I did for about 40 minutes."
Following the operations, Dr Stone, who studied a PhD in physics and micro-electronics at Cambridge University and became a research engineer at its Institute of Manufacturing, was unable to walk, talk properly, write, or eat and drink.
While she is now well down the road to recovery, she is still receiving treatment and is being fed through a naso-gastric tube as well as coming to terms with the psychological impact of the episode.
She added: "I'm told it stopped just a few millimetres from my spinal cord. I'm also told that if it had been slightly to the left or the right I would have bled to death at the scene. My injuries were life-threatening, absolutely, and it's so strange for me to realise that.
"I'm totally lucky to be alive. I feel like I've gained nearly everything back, kind of from the brink of death. It could be a life-changing experience but it confirms how I already feel about so many things.
"I tell people I meet, 'Life is short and at any moment something can happen to us'. I always thought it would be a car accident. I think a stag accident is much more my style."
Dr Stone, who is transgender, hopes to be able to return to Cambridge, where she runs print company Novalia, in the next few months.
In the days following December 30, Gary Burton, owner of the Mo-Dhachaidh B&B where Dr Stone was staying, described the incident as "very bizarre and very horrific".
"I think what happened was that the stag panicked. It was trapped in a fenced garden having got through a gate. I don't think there was anywhere else to go and it charged out of the gate," he said.