By his own admission, Lee Phillips, of Yelland near Barnstaple, loves anything to do with motorbikes: riding, watching, maintaining and talking about them.

It was whilst he was out riding his beloved bike, back on Sunday 18 October 1998, when Lee was just 27, that he had a serious accident which put paid to his motorbike riding for many months.

Lee recalls the day as if it were yesterday:

“It was a lovely warm late autumn day and I realised that it might be my last 'good' ride of the year. Little did I know that it was to be my last ride for a whole lot longer than that…

“I’d had a lovely ride to South Devon and was on the way back to Barnstaple approaching a staggered T junction. I slowed down and could see a car waiting at a give-way junction on my left. Just as I got level, however, and was close enough to note the colour of the driver’s glasses, he pulled out in front of me. I immediately tried to avoid the car but there was no time; the car hit my leg and pushed me and my bike over the verge and onto the other side of the road. I remember heading straight for a steel bus-stop pole and thinking please let this be quick, I don’t want to suffer – I was convinced I was going to die.

“Somehow, I missed the pole, and landed in the middle of the opposite carriage-way where a car was coming towards me. Survival kicked in and I tried to move, but saw my legs were at a very strange angle. I emitted a sound that I’ve never heard before nor since.

"Thankfully, some very helpful people rushed to my assistance, one offering first aid and another stopping the on-coming cars.”

A land ambulance was swift to scene and Lee remembers thinking what a long, bumpy drive it was going to be to reach North Devon District Hospital (NDDH), as he heard the land crew voicing concerns over saving Lee’s leg.

The next memory Lee has is hearing a sound that he described as signifying ‘the most amazing relief’ when he realised that the Devon Air Ambulance was arriving ‘to save the day’. He remembers the atmosphere at the scene palpably changed as paramedics Nigel Hare and Steve Wright took over Lee’s care with complete professionalism, leaving Lee feeling that he was in great hands. The aircrew medics assessed Lee’s injuries and administered pain relief, whilst offering quiet constant reassurance before he was stretchered to the waiting helicopter.

The journey to NDDH, which might have taken up to 45 minutes by road, took just seven minutes by air. X-rays revealed compound segmental breaks to Lee’s left leg and a double break in his right leg. Miraculously, and no doubt with thanks to his full leathers and back protector, Lee was relieved to learn that he hadn’t suffered any spinal, pelvic or abdominal injuries.

Waking up from surgery, and having convinced himself that there’d be nothing below his knee, Lee was amazed and delighted to learn that his left leg was still complete. He determined there and then to support Devon Air Ambulance to say thank you.

There followed months featured hard, physical rehabilitation with lengthy sessions of physiotherapy. Incredibly, Lee returned to work in just 14 weeks. Due to the titanium rod in his leg, he was unable to ride a motorbike, so he bought a bicycle instead and clocked up 2,500 miles in the following months, which helped him both physically and mentally.

Lee has supported and watched the progress of the Devon Air Ambulance closely since his accident. He was among the first players in our in-house Lottery, and still plays to this day. He has been a participant in each Motorcycle Ride Out, seen the launch of our second airbase, at Eaglescott, and the purchase of both owned aircraft, the first flying incubator and night flying.

The highlight for Lee, however, was to meet and thank the wonderful Ann Ralli for her determination and vision that Devon needed an Air Ambulance service.

Without her and all the people that make the Devon Air Ambulance, my life would be very different. Thank you all again.

Lee’s support goes further too. He has also now joined our family of volunteers as a Box Collector in his home area. And, as a lockdown project whilst on furlough, he created individual, bespoke fire pits from metal containers that were destined for industrial waste. Not wanting to miss a trick and having initially made one as a fundraiser for the NHS that proved very popular, Lee designed a special one for Devon Air Ambulance.

We are most grateful to Lee for his permission to tell his story and, of course, for his continued support.

It's thanks to your fantastic support that our air ambulance service and expert crews can keep attending our patients. A one-off or regular gift helps us to reach people in Devon in the most severe, time-critical, emergencies. If you feel you can make a gift then your donation truly does make a difference.