In 2016, Betty and Ron Harcombe celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary with a party where they were joined by their six children, extended family and many friends, and raised £300 for the Devon Air Ambulance Trust. This was an anniversary that, some years ago, Betty had doubted they would ever reach.

In December 1998, while Ron was in RD&E recovering from a heart attack, Betty had a call from the hospital to say ‘Ron has taken a turn for the worst.’ He had suffered a bleed on his brain and Betty and her son rushed back to the hospital.

Fearing for her husband, who was intubated and unconscious, doctors explained that the outlook was not good. They didn’t think that Ron would survive brain surgery so soon after his heart attack.

Betty’s son Alun, who is a cardiologist, was able to explain to his family the options available for his father. The medical team decided that, if the Air Ambulance was available, and if Derriford’s Neurology Department had a bed, then Ron would be flown to Plymouth. As Ron was prepared for the flight, Betty and Alun said their goodbyes.

Ron was flown by Air Ambulance to Derriford and was taken straight into surgery for a 5½hour operation. Surgeons at Derriford explained to Betty and the family members gathered, “We’ve done all we can but this is non-survivable event – now it’s up to Ron.” Amazingly, Ron pulled through, and gradually, against the odds, made a very good recovery. He was left with frontal lobe brain damage which had implications but, as Betty explained, while Ron is in familiar and comfortable surroundings everything is just fine. Whilst he has no memory of the incident and no real understanding of what he went through, he can still do crosswords! Some years later, he was also able to join the Police Choir and play bowls every summer.

Betty and her family were delighted to raise funds for DAA at their anniversary party and explained, “Without the Air Ambulance, Ron would not be here. We were told by doctors at RD&E that he had suffered a ‘non-survivable event’ – but he proved them wrong. Whilst he was likely not to have survived a road transfer, going by helicopter made all the difference so we are truly grateful and pleased to have the opportunity to give something back.”

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