“The impact of an incident is like a pebble being dropped into a pond,” explained Eamonn Concannon when he described the accident that left him fighting for his life. “So many more people are affected than just the patient themselves.”

One morning in early February this year, Eamonn had dropped his wife, Tracey, to work in Marks & Spencer in Barnstaple and was driving back to their home in Westward Ho! when he was hit head-on by a car whose driver had suffered a diabetic blackout. From dashcam footage, Eamonn knows that his car was hit with such force that it rolled over twice before landing.

Eamonn vividly remembers the extreme pain he was in. As witnesses rushed to help and pulled him out of the car, an Australian doctor, on holiday in Devon, insisted that Eamonn concentrate just on looking at him and keeping still. A local land ambulance crew were swiftly on-scene and Eamonn remembers hearing them request Air Ambulance assistance.

“Hearing the blades of the helicopter getting closer was just incredible,” said Eamonn. “I just wanted the pain to go away. I remember the aircrew Doctor giving me instructions then administering a drug called Ketamine. I was then trussed up like I was going in the oven, but don’t remember anything after that until I woke up in Intensive Care three days later.”

Meanwhile, police officers dashed to Marks & Spencer in Barnstaple to rush Tracey away from work and take her straight to Derriford. At the time, they were unable to tell her anything other than her husband had been involved in an accident.

On arrival at Derriford, Tracey learned the shocking enormity of her husband’s injuries: a split sternum, internal bleeding, a bleed on the brain, a broken femur and broken toes. Tracey was advised that Eamonn was likely to be in hospital for as much as four months. Later that day, having left work with nothing but her handbag, and after booking herself into relative’s accommodation in the hospital grounds, Tracey had to buy the basics for her stay.

Following his surgery, Eamonn was placed in an induced coma for three days to allow the swelling in his brain to reduce. Coming round, he recalls trying to pull the clips from his chest, unaware of all the major surgery he had been through.

“I remember when the physio team first came in to see me,” he explained. “I’d lost so much muscle from being in bed; they showed me the wheelchair and calmly told me that, whilst I would hopefully be able to stand up at some point, it was unlikely I’d be able to walk. I told them to take the wheelchair away – I was determined that I wouldn’t need it!”

Despite being warned that Eamonn would be in hospital for many months, the risk and growing awareness of corona virus changed things and Eamonn was discharged just six weeks later, with a programme of physiotherapy to continue at home. He also accessed psychiatric help and counselling to help him understand the impact of PTSD. Tracey too, also suffered panic attacks as she came to terms with the impact of the accident.

Six months on from the accident, Eamonn is now walking with the aid of just one crutch.

"I’ve still got a way to go but I definitely will walk unaided again. We are SO grateful to everyone who has helped us; we’ve had nothing but kindness shown by so many people. From our two daughters and their families to local friends and Tracey’s employers, everyone has been really brilliant."

And massive thanks, of course, to the aircrew from Devon Air Ambulance and all the staff at Derriford Hospital – we just can’t thank them enough.


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