Former patient recalls lifesaving air ambulance interventions this Road Safety Week
Road Safety Week (19 -25 November) plays a crucial role in educating communities and advocating for safer road practices.
Road traffic collisions have been one of the most common type of incidents the Warwickshire & Northamptonshire Air Ambulance (WNAA) has attended over the years, with the lifesaving service’s critical care crew being tasked to over 390 road traffic collisions this year alone.
Within minutes, WNAA’s critical care crews can be on the ground delivering pre-hospital emergency care at road traffic collisions, giving patients the very best chance of survival, patients like Helen.
Helen Nuttall from Loughborough is under no illusion that being attended by WNAA saved her life.
“The doctor and paramedic were able to make decisions and perform procedures that made the difference between me surviving and dying at the roadside. For every morning I get to wake up I say thank you. Words will never be enough to say how grateful I truly am to them for saving my life,” she says.
Helen was riding her Harley Davidson motorcycle in Hinckley when she was involved in a collision with a lorry.
Helen’s bike went under the wheels of the lorry, and she was tossed to the side of the road. She was knocked unconscious immediately and suffered multiple injuries to her head, neck, spine, pelvis, ribs, right leg, and right arm. Both her lungs were punctured, and she suffered a contusion (bruising) of the heart. She was bleeding profusely.
It was vital that her airways were cleared, and her condition stabilised, and the air ambulance crew performed critical care procedures at the roadside to do this.
As Helen’s helmet was still on and her airway partially obstructed, the crew had to work fast to clear it so she could breathe. To reduce blood loss and pain her injuries were splinted and she was given medication at the scene.
Helen was put into an induced coma and her breathing was managed by a ventilator. One of her lungs had partially collapsed so a thoracostomy procedure was performed to remove air that had leaked into her chest cavity.
Because of her head injury, the crew were concerned about the potential of further damage to her brain so managing her respiratory system and anaesthetising her were crucial to her long-term outcome.
Within eight minutes of getting a call out, WNAA arrived at the scene of the accident. The helicopter landed in a field near the industrial estate where Helen had been turning out of the entrance to a motorbike shop when the collision happened.
Due to the seriousness of her condition, it was decided to transport her by road to University Hospital Coventry & Warwickshire – the nearest major trauma centre – so the air ambulance doctor accompanied her in a land ambulance.
On arrival, the doctor did a hand over to a full trauma team in the A&E department.
Helen’s life was hanging in the balance. She was put on a life support machine and spent five weeks in a coma.
During this time, she underwent two major operations which saved her right leg and right arm.
Once she regained consciousness, Helen was in hospital for four months. She endured intense physiotherapy sessions which started in bed and when she could bear weight on her leg she had to learn to walk again.
“I had to relearn to do all the things I had taken for granted from using a knife and fork to washing and dressing myself,” she says.
When she left hospital in a wheelchair Helen was told that it would take her two years to be able to work and drive.
Since her incident, which happened in October 2018, Helen has gone back to work, and lives every day to the fullest.
“Every day I get to wake up and enjoy the world, I celebrate,” says Helen.
“I’ve been learning to walk again since my accident, I have had to accept the fact that I’m disabled, but I’m alive and I owe it to all the people who cared for and treated me,” she adds.
Her biggest love in the world is still Harley Davidson Motorbikes, she may never ride a motorbike again as her right side is made up of titanium implants, but she still gets to see her favourite machines.
Helen is grateful to everyone who came to her aid, and the support she received since then.
“If anyone thinks the air ambulance is a luxury, I can say it’s a necessity. Without the crew, I would be dead, simple as that. I raised money for the charity never knowing I would need it, you just never know what’s around the corner,” she says.