IT began as their dream day, soulmates Chris and Avril Mallon married in front of friends and family.
But within hours it turned into a nightmare, with Chris barely clinging to life in the arms of his new bride after plunging from a West Lothian hotel’s staircase.
Now, two months on, the couple have told of Chris coming back from the brink and his continued painful road to recovery.
“I had the most amazing day, just magical,” says graphic designer Avril, 43. “I’d met my soulmate and was so happy and thought it was being taken away from me. I was so, so scared. I never stopped praying.”
Chris had been helping a hotel porter carry wedding gifts to the honeymoon suite of Macdonald Houstoun House in Uphall when he tripped and plummeted 12ft from an external stone staircase onto paving below.
“I was sober at the time,” says Chris, 49. “I only had a couple of drinks through the whole day.
“There’s a railing with one bar underneath with about a half-metre gap below.
“My foot caught the top of the step and fell forward. I stumbled again, fell forward and could just see this gap I was going towards. I just went head-first through the gap. There was no way I could stop myself.
“The next thing I remember was waking up in hospital ten days later.”
Chris had landed on his back with such force, medics compared his horrific injuries to those of a car crash victim.
Avril was just yards behind him when he fell and ran to his side. She says what she saw will stay with her for the rest of her life.
“I got round the corner and saw Chris,” she recalls. “I ran to him and there was a lot of blood – he was delirious, moaning and bleeding.
“I was right beside him and held him in my arms saying, ‘Stay with me,’ because he kept going in and out of consciousness. It felt like the ambulance took forever. It was like an out-of-body experience. I thought, ‘This can’t be happening, this is my wedding’.
“He was bleeding from the head. I held his head in my hands. Unbelievably I didn’t get any on my dress but my hands were covered. He was devastated because they had to cut the wedding suit off him.
“They said I couldn’t go up to the honeymoon suite to get changed because it was a crime scene, so I sat in A&E in my wedding dress – it was surreal.
“One of the nurses took me to one side. She told me how ill Chris was. I said, ‘He’s talking,’ and she actually started crying because I wasn’t getting how serious it was.”
Chris spent ten days in intensive care and a further two weeks in high dependency after being transferred from the Royal Infirmary to a specialist unit at the Western General.
His list of injuries included three skull fractures, a broken back, a fractured and dislocated shoulder, a broken right hand and badly bruised heart and lungs.
He was put on a ventilator and caught pneumonia as his broken back interrupted treatment for his lung injury.
Initially given an 18-month recovery period, he also suffered a brain bleed on the right-hand side of his temple while his back was operated on and four pins inserted.
“I’m a big fan of the soaps and it was like something off the soaps and they always end in disaster,” said Avril.
“It was horrific – one thing after another. They started to bring him out of the coma but said he wasn’t coping so we kept getting a wee bit of hope and then straight back. For a week I didn’t see my kids.”
Chris woke up at the Western General to see the faces of Avril and his mum Sandra. Avril had kept a vigil by her new husband’s bedside.
“I could see him come round but really, really confused – he didn’t even know we were married,” recalls Avril. “I was singing our first dance and he started singing it with me – that was a lovely moment.”
It was a month before Chris was able to make it home to East Calder, where he lives with Avril, 43, their two-year-old son Alex, Chris’ son from a previous marriage, Sean, 13, and Avril’s children from a previous relationship, Ryan, ten, Emily-Grace, 13 and Reece, 16.
Now life is a series of doctors’ appointments for Chris’ injuries. “I was very lucky,” he says. “I don’t know if it was the nature of the injuries or my nature but I forced myself up quite quickly to try to walk.
“I was able to move. The physio very gingerly stood me up and the next two days I started taking a couple of steps.”
He is still unable to return to work as an administrator and said bosses at Livingston firm Energy Assets have been “fantastic” in giving him leave on full pay.
His back injury means having to give up badminton and the gym – but worst of all is not being able to play with Alex.
“It’s the hardest part, it’s been awful. I can’t lift him and can’t give him a cuddle. It’s difficult for me to play with him as well because I can’t go down on all fours, it’s really quite painful.”
Unable to fully bend his back, Chris has also lost the hearing in his left ear and his sense of taste and smell.
Avril says: “From where he was and where we are now, it’s a miracle, and I do believe in the power of prayer. He’s got a way to go but he’s here and that’s amazing.”
The Evening News reported this week that hotel bosses at Macdonald Houstoun House face possible criminal proceedings.
“It was an accident waiting to happen,” says Avril.
Both Chris and Avril are full of praise for the medics who saved his life and friends and family who showered them with love.
“One of the biggest things is people’s love and generosity is really humbling – how helpful they’ve been,” says Chris.
“Family have been amazing putting their lives on hold – just coming to visit in hospital made a big difference. They’ve been doing an awful lot for us.
“The public as well – people are genuinely concerned. I’ve had people stop me in the street. Everybody has been so kind. The nurses were amazing. They do such a wonderful job. They’re so upbeat all the time and have to go through so much dealing with difficult situations all the time.”
The couple met on June 14 five years ago, were engaged on June 14 a year ago and married on June 14 this year, so what about next June 14?
Perhaps a belated honeymoon in Dubai after they had to cancel their trip first time around?
“I hope by that time to be back on my feet again, living a normal life,” says Chris. “Physically I may not be able to do everything I could but I hope to be out celebrating my anniversary.”