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Wednesday, 9 January, 2002, 13:10 GMT
'I lost my arm to a drink driver'
Drink-driving is on the increase. In 1999, Tom Briggs, 61, was a passenger in a car struck by a motorist three times over the limit. The crash left one woman dead and robbed Mr Briggs of his left arm.

Sometimes when I talk about the crash a panic attack begins and my breath gets short. Right now I can feel my left hand and fingers start to tingle, even though they're no longer there.

The first and only thing I knew about the actual accident was coming round in the car and seeing my arm hanging off.

Police officer using a breathalyser
Drink-driving is on the increase
We had been out for a meal and to hear a talk by a missionary just back from Africa.

It was about 10 o'clock and we were driving up the dual carriageway towards our home in Sunderland when the other driver came up behind us at 70mph.

He hit us and we went into a lamppost. We brought it down and that's what took my arm. It all happened in a fraction of a second, a fraction I can't remember. When I came round I was just wondering where I was.

'I could feel my missing arm'

They woke me up in the operating theatre to tell me they were going to amputate my arm at the shoulder. After the operation, I had to ask which one was missing. I could still feel both.

Whatever happened during the crash, it crushed my elbow and fractured the arm in seven places. It also removed the skin.

Now I need my wife's hand to help me change a light bulb

The surgeon was very apologetic, needlessly, and said it was the only time he'd ever lost an arm.

Just a week after the crash I requested to leave my hospital bed so I could attend Iris's funeral. I didn't realise it then, but I was in a state of shock that was to last a considerable time.

Three times the limit

I later found out he was three times over the limit when he killed my friend and dramatically changed my life for ever.

I was a caretaker right before the crash and a lot of my work was manual. Even cleaning with one arm is totally impossible, so I had to leave the job and the house that went with it.

I'm proud of all the jobs I've had, especially in the electrical trade which took me all around the world. Now I need my wife's hand to help me change a light bulb.

Milk bottles
Even with his good arm, Mr Biggs can carry nothing heavier than a milk bottle
I also used to enjoy cooking, really enjoy it. Now that's beyond me. I can put things in the microwave, but that's not decent food preparation.

On my days off I'd go to the local baths for a swim, some weight training - moderate, I admit - and a sauna. Socially it was great. You'd hear all the local news. I haven't been since the crash. I'm very self-conscious.

'The arm causes blisters'

It was worse before I was fitted with a prosthetic limb. I'd go to the paper shop and people would immediately clock that I was the wrong shape. Old ladies would hold the door for me. That doesn't happen with the prosthetic arm.

All respect to the NHS, but the arm isn't very good. It's pink, not my skin colour at all, and it causes blisters.

Even simple things are difficult now ... I fractured my skull getting out of bed

I've applied for a new one from the place where Heather Mills gets her legs. They match the skin colour exactly and would even put realistic blemishes or scars on the limb if you ask.

I really want a hand that can grip. I'm hopeful that will end some of the frustration I feel.

As for the man who did this, he doesn't exist. If you hold something against someone that affects you and that's not a part of who I am.

Spat and sworn at

Victim support asked if I liked football. I said I liked good football, which you sometimes get from Sunderland. They asked if I went to the Stadium of Light. I said I couldn't afford it anymore. 'OK,' the man said, 'then you won't bump into him if the prison takes him there.'

I began to break down and had to ask the man to leave. I wouldn't recognise the driver if I met him, I only saw him at the sentencing - where his friends swore and spat at me as I left court.

Drinking beer
"If drivers realise they're over the limit and get a taxi home, I'm pleased."
But it brought it home that he could go about his normal life when he left prison, but that my life had changed through no fault of my own.

Even simple things are difficult now. I have trouble sleeping and once fractured my skull getting out of bed. I now sleep in a separate bed to my wife.

I have to go by the crash site regularly. The new lamppost really stands out and I can't help looking for it everytime.

Our new house is by a pub. Sometimes in the mornings you see cars left parked in the street. Some people might get angry about that, but if drivers realise they're over the limit and get a taxi home, I'm pleased.

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