Why we fly
It was a freak accident. All I can remember was choking. I was strapped in and jammed behind the steering wheel, whilst my head was pulled out of the vehicle and wedged between my truck and a tree.
The critical care experience of the Derbyshire, Leicestershire & Rutland Air Ambulance (DLRAA) crew at the scene of an accident can often be crucial to the long-term recovery of a patient.
This was the case at Tixover Quarry in Rutland when a competitor in a 4×4 off-roading winch challenge event sustained life-threatening injuries when his vehicle malfunctioned.
Neil Granger (48) was attempting to reverse his Land Rover Discovery up a slippery slope when the throttle cable snapped. The vehicle lost power and drive which, in turn, caused it to shoot forwards.
“It was a freak accident. All I can remember was choking. I was strapped in and jammed behind the steering wheel, whilst my head was pulled out of the vehicle and wedged between my truck and a tree. I was being choked by the strap of my crash helmet and the last person I recall seeing was my winchman,” he says.
The helmet ultimately saved Neil’s life but it didn’t prevent him from breaking all the bones in his face, losing his right eye and suffering a bleed on the brain. Neil was losing a lot of blood and his airway was obstructed.
When the air ambulance crew arrived at the scene of the accident, Neil had been freed from his vehicle by three fellow competitors. There was a land ambulance in attendance and he was lying face down on a stretcher.
It is unusual for patients to be in this prone position but with such extensive facial injuries, it was the best way for Neil to be able to breathe.
The air ambulance doctor and critical care paramedic had the experience to be able to keep Neil’s airway clear and stabilise him so he was well enough to be transferred to the nearest major trauma centre – the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham – by land ambulance.
They were able to give him drugs that most land ambulance crews are unable to administer.
Neil’s injuries meant that it was better to transport him by road. The air ambulance doctor accompanied him in the ambulance and was able to brief hospital staff about his condition when they arrived in Nottingham.
An off duty maxillofacial surgeon was called back to the hospital and Neil had an operation to realign part of his bottom jaw which had split in two.
He was put into an induced coma and five days later, after a 3D model of his skull had been created, Neil underwent a 12-hour operation to rebuild his face with 18 titanium plates. He was heavily sedated to help his recovery and after another three days was transferred to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge – nearer to his home – to continue his recovery.
Just 20 days after the accident – which happened on 7th April 2019 – Neil was allowed home.
“While I was in hospital I decided I wanted to do something for the air ambulance charity as I think they are unsung heroes,” he says.
The off-roading community, who Neil says are “like a family” have supported him in this and to date have helped him and his wife Karen raise over £8,000 for DLRAA.
“We could not think of any better way to show our thanks and appreciation than to have a fundraising event to raise as much as we could for the charity. They, in no uncertain terms, helped to save my husband’s life and we are without a doubt, truly grateful,” says Karen.