It's been a little more than a month since the fatal accident at Northvolt, in which a man in his 60s lost his life and a man in his 20s was hospitalized with serious injuries.
When Arvid Öhgren opens the front door of his apartment building in the center of Skellefteå on a chilly day in mid-January, the person standing in front of me is the one who has so far been referred to in news reports about the accident as "a man in his 20s". He is wearing a white soccer jersey of his favorite team, Manchester United, with a cast on his left foot and, most conspicuously, evidence of the serious injuries he sustained in the tragic incident: a white bandage around his amputated left arm.
We sit down on the couch, and Arvid, 22, begins to recount the seconds immediately following the incident that form the basis of this entire interview.
Although his day job is as an industrial worker, at the time of the accident he was on loan to NCC and working as a concrete worker, building a weather shelter on the Northvolt site. During this work, a fork attachment came loose from a telescopic handler and fell on him and his colleague:
– The first thing I remember is trying to pull myself up and find a comfortable position. So I was sitting against the side of a concrete foundation, and then I picked up my left arm off the ground with my right arm. The left arm was hanging from a small bridge of skin, and then I quickly realized that...
Arvid pauses for a moment and then continues:
– I pressed the arm's fingers without feeling anything at all, and I saw how the arm looked. I quickly understood that it wasn't going to be possible to save it.
What happened next?
– A security guard came and tried to calm me down, but I was in so much pain that it was hard to be calm. But I asked this person if I was going to lose my arm, and he said, trying to calm me down, "No, no, it's just a small fracture," Arvid continues:
– But I could see for myself how bad it was, and I felt like, "No, this is going to be hard to save."
What thoughts went through your mind at that moment?
– I didn't think much about what had happened. I just had pain. I didn't really think much about the fact that the arm wasn't there anymore; all I really felt was that it hurt a hell of a lot.
Arvid continues, revealing that he was lying on the ground waiting for the ambulance, and at that moment he had only one wish:
– Well, I just wanted to be sedated, but they couldn't sedate me until we got to Umeå. They gave me strong drugs in the ambulance to calm me down, but I was still in so much pain. Then they gave me things in the ambulance that knocked me out completely, and I don't remember much from that first time in the ambulance. The first thing I really remember is waking up when the ambulance was near Sikeå.
What did you do when you woke up?
– I called my mom and dad first, then my boss and Moa (Arvid's girlfriend.).
And was that the first time they heard what had happened?
– No, they had heard that I had been in an accident and they had gone straight to the emergency room in Skellefteå, but they never got to see me there.
What do you remember about those phone calls?
– Not much, but I was told that I told my boss, "I won't be able to come to work tomorrow," and I told my parents that they had to pick up a package that I was supposed to pick up that same day.
When the ambulance arrived at NUS in Umeå, Arvid was quickly sedated and operated on a short time later. The following hours after the operation are hard to remember, but one thing he will never forget is that a large part of his soccer team visited him in Umeå the same day.
– It was very touching to have them visit. I know many of them were very worried, and it was probably just as comforting for them to see me, I think...
His girlfriend Moa and Arvid's parents also visited him that day.
How did your loved ones cope?
– I think it's been more difficult for everyone else, rather than for me. It wasn't that hard for me, except that it was damn tough and boring to be in hospital.
What was it like to see how terrible they felt about what had happened to you?
– That was probably the hardest part, and when I think about it, those moments when I saw my family or friends feeling bad were probably the times when I felt it was the hardest.
Arvid wasn't alone when the accident happened; he had two colleagues with him, one of whom, a man in his 60s, died from his injuries.
How much time have you had to think about the death of your colleague?
– I haven't had much time to think about it. I worked with him last summer and then for two months in the autumn until the accident happened. But of course it's incredibly tragic.
Did you ever think that it could have been you?
– Yes, it did, and I think...
Arvid falls silent again. For the first time during the interview, he gets a really serious look in his eyes, and then he continues:
– That's probably why I was so positive during the time after the accident. Because I know how bad it could have been, and if you think about what happened to my colleague, losing an arm feels pretty mild compared to what he had to pay.
When did you find out that your colleague had died?
– When I woke up in the ambulance near Sikeå, I asked the paramedics how he was doing, but I already knew it was bad. When the accident happened, I was lying on the ground next to him, and when I saw him, I understood that "this is not good", Arvid says with weight in his voice and continues:
– Anyway, the paramedics said that his life couldn't be saved, and I replied, "Yes, I thought as much".
Having been involved in an accident where someone actually died can leave you scarred. How will you deal with that?
– I've talked a lot with a counselor, but I'm also going to talk to a psychologist. It's probably better to do it right away before any potentially difficult thoughts arise.
Arvid also reveals that he hasn't experienced any post-traumatic stress syndrome after the accident, something that is common in accidents of this magnitude.
– The first night after the surgery, I woke up with the accident playing in my head. Since that night, I've had a routine of going to bed and replaying the accident in my head, and it's worked really well. I haven't had any nightmares or woken up thinking about the accident since.
In addition to the amputated arm, Arvid suffered a broken ankle, broken collarbone, and ruptured spleen in the accident.
Did you have a lot of pain?
– Not the worst. Well, yeah, after the first surgery I was in a lot of pain. You think when you lose an arm you should be in pain, but it wasn't that bad. You also think that when you break a foot it should hurt, but I don't have any pain in my foot.
What has been the biggest challenge in everyday life with only one arm?
– I don't really know. I haven't tried tying my shoes yet and I think I might have trouble with that, Arvid says with a laugh and continues:
– The other day I tried to change the garbage bag, and that was difficult. It was quite a challenge. But overall, I'd say it's going much better than I could have imagined.
Do you ever "forget" that you're missing an arm?
– I was at work visiting, and then when I was getting dressed to go home, I wanted to put a boot on my cast foot, and then I wanted to balance on the wall with my left arm, but it wasn't possible, and I crashed right into the wall. That's the only time I tried to support myself with my left arm.
What are your thoughts about what it will be like with an amputated arm?
– Well, I have nothing but positive thoughts. I'm very excited about trying prosthetics.
So you have mostly positive thoughts?
– Yes, actually.
A big goal for Arvid is to return to football. He plays for his hometown club, Bureå IF, and wants to put his football boots on and get back on the field as soon as possible. The accident happened on December 14, and Arvid is on sick leave for 180 days. His coach at Bureå IF has given him the green light to start training with the team again after 150 days.
Do you miss it much?
– Insanely so.
You're absolutely determined that you're going to play football?
– Yes, I will play football. I'm going to quit floorball, as it's probably more challenging, Arvid says, waving what's left of his left arm.
For someone who's been through what you've been through, you seem, dare I say, unexpectedly positive?
– Yes, but that's the attitude I have. I've never really felt down, and I feel surprisingly good considering my situation. I'm really looking forward to a new everyday life, and I'm very excited about it.
It wouldn't have been strange if you weren't so optimistic...
– That's true, and those who took care of me in the hospital actually said they were worried about me, Arvid says and continues:
– They thought I was way too positive, so they were wondering if they had given me too much morphine.
And that's not the case?
– Haha, you might think so, but not really. I just take one long-acting pill in the morning and one in the evening, and soon I'll be down to one pill a day.
Arvid talks several times about how excited he is about the future and his new routine. Sometime this spring, he will be back in the locker room at Bureå IF, and around the same time, he will return to his job, where he has already been offered a new position as a supervisor.
When we visit Arvid's home, his girlfriend Moa Fredriksson is also there, and she tells us what the first hours after the accident were like for her:
– Well, for me it was definitely the hardest before I saw Arvid. In the beginning it was so uncertain what had happened and how badly he was hurt.
He called you from the ambulance; I understand it was very comforting for you to hear his voice?
– Absolutely, but it was still very unclear what had happened and that was probably the hardest part, not really knowing.
You live with him. Do you also notice this positivity?
- Yes, definitely. And the fact that he is still so positive has helped me. If he had been down in the dumps, I probably would have been too, concludes Moa.
Namn: Arvid Öhgren
Ålder: 22 år
Intressen: Fotboll, golf, tv-spel och Manchester United.