Why we fly
I felt so vulnerable just lying there. I couldn’t get warm and I wanted to go to sleep. I was in terrible pain, but once I was told the air ambulance was coming I immediately felt safe because I knew I was going to get the medical help I needed.
Lying in a puddle in a rural location on a cold March day with a badly broken leg after a riding accident, Karina Tape could feel herself beginning to lose consciousness.
A lady who lived nearby had covered her in a blanket – and even gone to the trouble of running an electric cable from her house so that she could use a hairdryer to create some heat for Karina. She held Karina’s head off the ground to keep it dry.
“I felt so vulnerable just lying there. I couldn’t get warm and I wanted to go to sleep. I was in terrible pain, but once I was told the air ambulance was coming I immediately felt safe because I knew I was going to get the medical help I needed,” she says.
An experienced horse rider, Karina (44) fell off her horse Will when he started cantering at speed as she was in the process of remounting and only had one foot in the stirrups.
She was out on a regular hack with two other riders and had dismounted from Will to help one of the others get back on her horse after she had to dismount to get through a stile.
“When I landed on the ground I immediately felt that something bad had happened to my leg. This was confirmed when I saw my foot was not vertical but at the four o’clock position. I found out later that I had broken my tibia, fibula and dislocated my ankle,” she says.
Karina rang 999 and called friends to make sure that her horse, who had galloped off, was found and taken back to the stables.
She managed to move her leg but it had to be reset properly by the doctor from Derbyshire, Leicestershire & Rutland Air Ambulance before she could be put onto the helicopter.
“I was given a dose of ketamine before he did the procedure so I don’t remember a lot about the flight. However, I know the crew had to lift me over a gate on the stretcher to get me to where the helicopter had landed,” says Karina.
It took just 9 minutes to fly her from the bridleway near Gildingwells in Nottinghamshire to the Northern General Hospital in Sheffield.
The surgeons there had to use 10 pins and a plate to repair her leg and she was sent home wearing a cast a week later. After two weeks the cast was replaced by a leg brace and when that was removed in June – just three months after the accident – Karina started riding again.
“The doctors were amazed at how quickly I was able to walk again. I think this is because of the treatment I was given at the scene of the accident by the air ambulance and also the fact that I kept myself physically and mentally fit when I was recuperating.”
“It was very important to me that I stayed around horses and went to the stables so my friends drove me to the yard and I sat on a stool to muck out,” she explains.
Karina, an equestrian photographer from Sheffield, supports the local air ambulance by making regular donations and providing prizes for fundraising events.
“I don’t know what riders would do without the air ambulance. We are often out in remote locations when accidents like mine happen. The care I got from the crew was incredible. They were really knowledgeable, understanding and reassuring and got me to hospital very quickly. As the charity gets no government funding I am happy to support it. I am proof that you never know when you might need it,” she says.