Farmer’s wife and mother of two Heather Atkinson (43) experienced the worse pain of her life after falling from a horse when it bolted at high speed. She landed on her hip and fractured her pelvis in three places. She was bleeding internally and had ligament damage.
When the accident happened – at the family home in Dunsby near Bourne, Lincolnshire in April 2017 – she lay on the ground for over an hour before the land ambulance arrived.
“When the paramedics turned me to get me onto a spinal board I screamed out in agony the pain being unbelievable. They were having difficulty finding a vein to give me pain relief and it was decided to call the air ambulance to move me,” she says.
Derbyshire, Leicestershire & Rutland Air ambulance took the call as Heather’s local air ambulance service, Lincolnshire & Nottinghamshire was already on a mission.
Heather served in the Royal Marines from 1994 to 1998 as a musician/medic so she understood the seriousness of the situation she was in.
“When the air ambulance crew arrived it was just like being back in the forces. They obviously knew what they were doing and were very calm and professional. There was absolutely no question of me not feeling safe and secure. I was totally confident with what they were doing,” she says.
The air ambulance doctor was quickly able to give Heather a Katamine injection which dulled the pain enough for them to get her safely and comfortably onto the helicopter for the 15 minute flight to the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham.
Heather’s husband Ben made the same journey by road which took 90 minutes so by the time he arrived at the hospital she had been assessed, scanned and made comfortable.
“The flight in the helicopter was very smooth. Had I been transported by land ambulance not only would it have taken much longer it would have been very uncomfortable. As I was bleeding internally it was crucial I got to the hospital quickly,” says Heather.
She was given two blood transfusions and spent 16 days in hospital before being discharged. Twelve weeks after the accident she was fully recovered and able to ride again.
As she lives rurally, Heather was very aware of the work of the local air ambulance before her accident. She knew about the charitable status of the service and has organised fundraising events at Witham Hall School in Bourne – attended by her two sons – to support it.
As a thank you for what DLRAA did for her, Heather arranged for £2,500 from the proceeds of the school ball and clay pigeon shoot to be donated to us to help keep our lifesaving helicopters flying, with the rest going to the Lincolnshire & Nottinghamshire service.
“You never know when you may need your local air ambulance. I am testament to that – it really does save lives” she says.