David was taking his bike for a test ride following some late September afternoon tinkering. He took a route he knew well, incorporating the lanes behind his home town and the dual carriageway of the A38. The bike was riding smoothly and David was only five minutes from home when he was involved in an horrific collison that changed everything and left him fighting for his life.

The crash, involving two cars as well as David’s motorbike, catapulted him into the hedgerow; he remembers being surrounded by bracken and long grass. Among the first people on scene was a midwife. David remembers her calm reassurance that help was on its way. He heard voices around him, including those questioning whether his crash helmet should be removed.

I was sure I was dying,' David explained to Helipad’s Debbie Gregory. 'I said to the midwife that she had to tell my family that I loved them all and to tell them I’m sorry. But she refused and said, 'No, I won’t need to do that. You can tell them yourself.' I remember, soon after, that everything just went white and the midwife was still saying, 'Come on, stay awake, you can hear the sirens now, help is on its way.'

David embraces paramedics who saved his lifeCritical care at the roadside

An ambulance arrived and was swiftly followed by the Devon Air Ambulance helicopter, which landed in a nearby field. Dr Alex Cross was on board the helicopter that day and she and paramedics, Kate Adlam and Adrian Parker, rushed to the scene.

Working together with the land crew paramedics, the aircrew assessed the situation. It was felt that manoeuvring David over the farm gate and across the field to the helicopter would waste precious minutes, so they agreed the speediest way to get him to hospital was in the land ambulance straight down the A38.

Having carefully strapped David to a pelvic board and administered essential pain relief, they loaded him into the land ambulance and Dr Alex and paramedic Kate continued to monitor and treat him as they raced to the major trauma centre at Plymouth’s Derriford Hospital.

A difficult road to recoveryDavid was very poorly following his accident, here pictured in his stretcher

David had sustained life-threatening injuries in the incident; not only had he broken both legs, his right hand, wrist and arm, but he had suffered four fractures of the spine, a shattered pelvis and multiple internal injuries.

David’s family were alerted to the accident by the police and all rushed to Derriford. At first, to their surprise, he appeared to be ok and was even able to talk a little to them. However, their relief was short-lived as David was then put in an induced coma for the following two weeks and needed many hours of surgery over the following days and weeks. David remembers

All the while I was unconscious, I was convinced I’d died in the accident. I remember at times I could hear my wife Monica’s voice and I thought how odd, how can I hear Mon’s voice when I’m dead? I could also see my dog Poppy, who had died just a few months before my accident. I so wanted to be with Poppy but, although I could see her and called to her to come to me, she just sat watching and never came over.

Even when I came around, I admit I think I’d rather have died. I tried to pull the tubes out and I remember the alarms on all the machines around me were ringing.  I feel so sorry for all my family – they’ve been through absolute hell.  It’s terrifying to see someone you love in Intensive Care.

David astonished surgeons by walking when it was believed he would require a wheelchairAstonished surgeons

After three months in Derriford Hospital, David was transferred to Mount Gould Hospital in Plymouth for essential physiotherapy and rehabilitation. There had been a risk of David losing his left leg after the accident and, even when the leg was saved thanks to surgery and some complex metalwork, David was warned that he was likely to be a wheelchair user for the rest of his life.

It was with immense pride that, after a further three months of intense physiotherapy, David managed to stand on his own, astounding the surgeons who had operated on him. David still has regular check-ups and is always so chuffed to see any of the teams who put him back together and cared for him so well.

On seeing for himself that David was now able to walk a few steps with crutches, one surgeon exclaimed with delight, 'I never expected to see this day.' And he said to Monica, 'Your husband is a medical miracle; this is the reason we do what we do!'

While David’s physical progress is indeed a fantastic achievement, and testament to his strength and determination, he recognises that he has a long way to go and knows that the psychological healing may take many more months. He has, however, now met with all the people who were involved with his care from the scene of the accident and from each department at Derriford, to pass on his grateful thanks.

An important reunionDavid in better health with his family

The last piece of the jigsaw was a reunion at Exeter Airbase with the team from Devon Air Ambulance.  David came along with his wife and their three daughters, Lauren, Sam and Hayley, plus son-in-law Darren and 10-year-old grand-daughter Phoebe.  It was an emotional visit for the whole family, but David was proud to demonstrate his walking skills to the aircrew.

David is convinced that, without the intervention of the team from Devon Air Ambulance, he would not be here today. The aircrew also expressed their delight and amazement at the progress he has made since that fateful day. The family declared that their visit to the airbase was hugely therapeutic for them all and they are now considering a variety of fundraising activities as a way to say Thank You.

Do you have a story you'd like to share with us? Due to patient confidentiality we only hear from those patients who decide to get in tough with us, so we'd love to hear from you.

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