Quick transfer to hospital by local air ambulance saved my life says Melton man on 5th anniversary of being airlifted
Five years ago on 09 July, semi-professional cyclist and former Scottish track champion Darren Howitt (46) from Melton Mowbray sustained life-threatening injuries when he was involved in a collision with a tipper van during a training ride near his home.
With his life hanging in the balance it was vital that he got the urgent medical treatment he needed as quickly as possible.
It took Derbyshire, Leicestershire & Rutland Air Ambulance (DLRAA) just 8 minutes to fly him to The Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham where the East Midlands Major Trauma Centre is located.
“I wouldn’t be alive if I hadn’t got to the hospital so quickly. They couldn’t operate on me for 36 hours as I had lost so much blood and I had to be stabilised before surgery,” explains Darren.
He took the full impact of the crash on his right femur which broke in four places. His head smashed into the van’s windscreen and the force of the impact threw him across the road and under a bush.
Darren’s injuries included a subdural bleed to his brain, a punctured femoral artery which caused severe bleeding and 19 broken bones, including five in his back.
He was in a coma for four months – during which time he underwent 10 operations – spent another four months in a wheelchair followed by a year on crutches and had to learn to walk and talk again.
In total, he spent nearly six months in hospital, including some time in a neurorehabilitation unit.
Despite the titanium rods in his right leg, hip, knee, tibia and fibula Darren has been able to get back on his bike and regularly cycles up to 80 miles a week. He isn’t cycling competitively at the moment but is still involved in the sport he loves.
He is now a Regional Commissaire for British Cycling and a driver for Union Cycliste Internationale – the world governing body of cycling – driving support cars for cyclists and TV crews at major events.
Last year he drove at the UCI World Championships – the biggest cycling event of the year– in Harrogate, describing it as “the best time of my life”.
Unfortunately in November last year he was knocked off his bike by a motorist and had to spend two nights at the Queens Medical Centre after breaking a bone in his back. He has now returned to his job as Returns Manager at Fisher Scientific in Loughborough and is cycling again with plans to “100 per cent road race in 2021”.
Darren knows that without being flown by DLRAA he would not be alive today. He has visited the DLRAA base at East Midlands Airport to meet the paramedic who was on duty on the day of his accident.
“It was amazing to shake his hand and say thank you. The air ambulance is an amazing charity and it there’s no doubt that it saved my life,” he says.