Philip was assisted by our Critical Care Team following a road traffic collisionPhilip Sully da Silva was thrilled to pick up his new motorbike in August 2019 and couldn’t wait to get out on it for a quick test ride. Little did he know that less than 24 hours later he’d need Devon Air Ambulance …

The following day, after giving his bike a quick clean up, he set off from Yarnscombe near Barnstaple down to Torrington. As a local, it’s a route he knew well and is mindful of its bends and turns. On this particular morning, however, an oncoming car came fast round a bend towards Phil on the wrong side of the road, causing him to swerve. At precisely this point, the front forks of his new bike snapped in half, catapulting Phil over the handlebars.

As the car drove on, oblivious, Phil remembers flying through the air and landing heavily on his stomach in a hedge. With his mobile phone in his chest pocket he knew he needed to move but, as he rolled over, he heard a ‘click’ in his spine and lost all feeling in his legs. As the world went white around him, he was aware of a buzzard flying high in the sky above.

“I am quite a spiritual person and, the strangest thing is,” explained Phil, when he spoke to Debbie Gregory from Devon Air Ambulance, “Despite everything that happened, I wouldn’t change a thing. While I was lying there, helpless, I just knew how much my family meant to me and I knew that I was going to survive. I heard another bike coming, so I raised my hand above the hedge. The guy saw my bike in bits across the road and then saw my arm. He called 999 and rushed to help. A car also stopped, and the husband came to help, holding my hand and offering much needed reassurance, before an off-duty doctor also stopped. Then a land ambulance crew arrived who subsequently called for Devon Air Ambulance. 

The significant damage inflicted on Philip“By the time the aircrew reached me, thankfully, I was beginning to feel my legs but was still in agony if I tried to move. I was certainly most grateful for the morphine the aircrew administered.”

After an assessment in situ, Philip was carefully manoeuvred onto the stretcher before being flown by Devon Air Ambulance to Derriford Hospital where it was found that he had bruising to his heart and three fractures to his spine. It was four days of lying completely still before Philip had surgery to fit four metal rods alongside the breaks in his back. He then had a further seven days in hospital before he was discharged.

His wife, Annie, collected Philip from Derriford and they set off to collect their young son, who had been cared for by Annie’s parents in Dorset. However, by the time they reached their destination, Philip was in so much pain and distress, he feared he was having a heart attack. He was taken back to Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital where he spent the following 10 days. Finally, he was able to return home for rest and rehabilitation.

One year on from the accident and Philip is now feeling a whole lot better.

A lot has changed in the last 12 months but it’s all looking positive. I still have some issues with my back where I’ve suffered some compression of my spine but I’m hopeful that sessions with a chiropractor will ease that. I’m just so grateful to everyone who helped me that day; I definitely think someone was watching over me. Everyone was just brilliant, and the Devon Air Ambulance didn’t just save a motorcyclist, they saved a son, a husband, and father and a friend too. I will always remember that.

Annie was also immensely grateful to the Air Ambulance who attended her husband and said, “I want to convey my heartfelt thanks to everyone involved who saved Charlie’s daddy - you are all absolute heroes.”

Philip has promised Annie that he won’t get back on a motorbike without her permission, so he has set himself a challenge to train to run a marathon instead. He was relieved that his first training run 'wasn’t too bad' so he is looking forward to building up strength and stamina as the weeks pass, before aiming for a charity marathon to raise funds for the Air Ambulance that helped him.

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Philip in recovery in hospital following his accident Philip with his young family