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Inspirational Derbyshire teen is the face of local air ambulance fundraising campaign

Inspirational Derbyshire teen is the face of local air ambulance fundraising campaign

A Derbyshire teenager who had to learn to walk, talk and eat again after being seriously injured in a road traffic collision is the face of Your local air ambulance’s 2021 summer fundraising campaign.

Jael Rowles (17) from Old Brampton near Chesterfield and her family credit the critical care crew from Derbyshire, Leicestershire & Rutland Air Ambulance (DLRAA) with saving her life after the car she was a passenger in collided with an oncoming vehicle that lost control.

Following the impact, Jael was immediately knocked unconscious and sustained serious head injuries.

The accident happened in August 2019 when Jael and two cousins were travelling in a car driven by her uncle.

Miraculously just 15 months later she has recovered enough to cycle 10km, run 2.5km and swim 400m to complete a fundraising triathlon where she raised over £8,000 for the lifesaving service.

“I wanted to thank the air ambulance by raising enough money for at least one mission to help other people who might find themselves in a frightening emergency like I did. The fact I was able to raise enough money to pay for nearly five missions is amazing,” she says.

Appeal letters featuring Jael’s incredible patient story and triathlon accomplishment are being delivered to thousands of local households. Recipients are being asked to make a donation which will be doubled by a trust fund – up to a total amount of £90,000.

“The physical challenge was not easy for her and she had to train hard, but it gave her something to aim for,” says her dad, Adrian.

He recalls the awful moment when he and his wife Priscilla heard that their daughter and relatives had been involved in the crash.

They were phoned by a passing motorist who knew the family and recognised the people who had been injured.

“When we arrived at the scene the road was blocked and there were at least four ambulances there,” he says.

Due to the time of day – it was beginning to get dark – the air ambulance crew attended the accident in the critical care car instead of the helicopter. It took them under 30 minutes to travel from their base at East Midlands Airport to the scene.

The critical care team were able to give emergency anaesthetic treatment to Jael at the scene that is usually only performed in a hospital environment.

Jael was initially sedated, before being be intubated, and ventilated. This allowed the critical care team to control her body’s oxygen and carbon dioxide levels so that her brain received the maximum amount of protection, and help prevent any further injury before reaching hospital.

The air ambulance team accompanied Jael in a land ambulance to Sheffield Children’s Hospital to continue her treatment during the journey and optimise her care further.

“The air ambulance doctor briefed the hospital staff about Jael’s condition and then updated and reassured us about what was happening – for which we were very grateful,” explains Adrian.

Jael was in intensive care for two weeks and the neurological ward for three months. During this time, she underwent an intensive rehabilitation programme with a team of specialists in physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy and neuropsychology.

Her parents were by her side all this time and lived at the hospital in a room provided by a charity that supports children with brain injuries.

In mid-November, Jael returned home to continue her physiotherapy and by April 2020 she was able to take part in online lessons organised by her school.  She went back to the classroom with a support worker in September but since the third lockdown has been doing online learning at home again.

It is testament to Jael’s determination that not only did she complete her triathlon, but she did so during the Covid-19 pandemic – which meant it had to be delayed several times.

She says:

“’I would like to thank again the local air ambulance, to whom I am ever grateful, for acting the way they did on that day. I think their helicopter enthused me on as it always seemed to fly over our heads when we were training. I am thankful to all the people who donated to this worthy cause.”

The campaign will land with supporters today – 7 July – so to support the lifesaving charity’s appeal, please click here.