Every time she sees or hears the local air ambulance flying above her, Letitia Hayward thinks of what might have been had it not come to her rescue.
“I owe my right leg, if not my life to the helicopter flying me to hospital so quickly,” she says.
It was a beautiful October morning when Letitia decided to make the most of the weather by going for a bike ride around the village of Loddington near Kettering where she lives. On the way back, just a few hundred yards from her home, she was involved in a side to side collision with an oncoming bus which was overtaking parked cars.
“I was thrown off my bike onto the road and landed just a few centimetres from one of the wheels of the bus. I was in and out of consciousness but luckily the accident happened outside the homes of two off duty nurses who I remember helping me,” she says.
First responders arrived at the scene and Letitia was sedated. She had multiple injuries to her right leg including a severed artery, dislocated knee, ligament damage and a deep wound above her ankle. She was very badly bruised and also suffered a broken finger on her right hand.
Warwickshire & Northamptonshire Air Ambulance (WNAA) attended and flew her to University Hospital Coventry – although she has no recollection of it.
“I am eternally grateful that I was flown to the specialist treatment I needed as, I believe, the outcome of my accident could have been very different if I had not been. All the doctors I spoke to told me that my injuries were very serious and for a time they were concerned I might lose my leg,” says Letitia.
She was initially in hospital for 18 days and underwent a vein graft to repair the severed artery behind her knee, plastic surgery on her ankle and had a metalwork frame put around her knee.
Her recovery was long and slow, including over three months wearing a leg brace and a total of seven operations including surgery on her hand twice, keyhole surgery in her knee and ligament reconstruction.
“It has been a long journey. I had a whole year when I was at a hospital or doctor’s appointment every week but I still have a leg and my life is pretty much back to normal now,” says Letitia.
Coming from a farming family and living in a rural community, Letitia says she was always aware of the local air ambulance and the lifesaving work it does every day.
“It is a charity that benefits everybody and is always there when needed. I had supported it before my accident but now I am an uber-supporter,” she says.
Now she is back driving her car and keen to do more to help the local air ambulance, Letitia has organised a coffee morning which raised enough money to pay the £1,700 it costs each time the air ambulance undertakes a mission.
She is a community volunteer in Northamptonshire and hopes to be able to use her previous work experience as a charity worker to help raise the profile of WNAA and do more fundraising.