Loughborough motorcyclist hails air ambulance ‘lifesavers’ ahead of charity’s 40K mission milestone
A motorcyclist from Loughborough is sharing her experience of being airlifted after she was seriously injured in a road traffic collision to raise awareness of the local air ambulance – which will be flying its 40,000th mission on 24th June.
Helen Nuttall is under no illusion that being attended by Warwickshire & Northamptonshire Air Ambulance (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.
“I pulled out of a junction straight in front of a lorry. I looked both ways but should have checked again. If I had taken a bit more time and done a second check the accident would not have happened,” she says.
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 anesthetising 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. But her determination won through and she was walking unassisted and went back to her job as a Tax Officer in just nine months after the accident – which happened in October 2018.
“I had to get on with my life again. I owed it to all the people who cared for and treated me,” she says.
Helen is grateful to every one of them. With reference to the WNAA crew she says:
“If anyone thinks the air ambulance is a luxury, I can say it’s a necessity. Without the crew, I would be dead. As a charity, it needs our support and I urge anyone who can afford to make a donation to help keep it operational to please do so.
I hope my story helps to raise funds for and awareness of the lifesaving work they do 24 hours a day, every day of the year, including in the current Covid-19 crisis.”
Helen is a member of the Sherwood Chapter, a branch of the Harley Owners Group, who have raised thousands of pounds for Lincolnshire & Nottinghamshire Air Ambulance.
“All air ambulance charities are lifesavers and what happened to me is proof of that. My friends in the chapter have been a great support to me during my recovery and my story has inspired our group to continue fundraising. If telling people about what happened to me also helps raise awareness and funds for WNAA as well that’s brilliant,” she says.
Missions like Helen’s wouldn’t be possible without public support. The 24/7 lifesaving service reaches its 40,000th mission milestone on the 24th June and relies on generous donations to make these missions happen – to find out more, please click here