Saturday 5th August 2017 was another busy day for Devon’s Air Ambulances, and unusually they were called to two jobs on Cornwall's East Looe beach.

Explorer Ethan takes a tumble

Pippa and Murray from Buckinghamshire surprised their children, Ethan and little sister Eleanor, with a weekend visit to Cornwall where, naturally, the first stop was the beach. The family enjoyed a fabulous morning crabbing and rock pooling.

Murray, Pippa and 6-year old Eleanor had taken the low route back to the beach from the rock pools. Ethan, ever the explorer, chose the high route. The family were back at the beach when Ethan, who was on the top of Pen Rock, slipped on loose pebbles and fell heavily Young Ethan with his Ive been Airlifted Bearonto the rocks below.  

Murray ran to his son and was shocked to see Ethan’s facial injuries. Murray could see that Ethan had broken his arm, but suspected he might also have other broken bones and possibly internal injuries. Murray kept his son calm and still with the help of another couple, while Pippa phoned the emergency services.

An out of county mission

As a visitor to the area and with no visible landmarks on the beach, Pippa was unable to give an exact location of where they were, but she was relieved to learn the Air Ambulance was being deployed. To many locals on the beach that morning, it was a surprise that because Cornwall’s Air Ambulance had already been deployed on another mission that the Devon helicopter arrived instead. A land crew was also dispatched and the RNLI was involved. It was a nerve-wracking time for everyone as Ethan was stretchered from the rocks and up the beach to the waiting helicopter.

Initially, the aircrew planned to fly Ethan with his mum to The Children’s Hospital in Bristol, with Murray and Eleanor planning to join them there. However, because of concerns about Ethan’s head injury during the flight he was flown directly to Derriford hospital instead.

An amazing recovery

At the hospital, Ethan was assessed and scanned. He had two breaks to his right arm, two breaks to his pelvis and severe lacerations to his face. Ethan stayed in hospital for 4 nights before being allowed home. He was wheelchair-bound and under strict instructions not to put any weight down while his broken pelvis healed. As an outdoors boy, a county cricketer, performance swimmer and sports fanatic, Ethan’s summer had definitely taken a very different turn.

One month after the incident, Pippa was pleased to tell us that Ethan was out of his wheelchair and had returned to school at the start of the autumn term. His pelvis and broken arm were being monitored closely as he grows, but his consultants and the whole family are amazed at his recovery.

Thank you for all of your help,' added Pippa. 'Without doubt the emergency services and all at Derriford made the difference.

Brian's missing hours

Later the same day, Devon Air Ambulance was called to attend another incident, again at Looe beach. 

Brian Cox and his partner, Sarah, were staying with friends in Bude. On the last day of their holiday they decided to go for a day-trip to Looe. The sea looked inviting so Brian and his friend Bryan Orman they went for a dip.

Brian commented through chattering teeth that the water was pretty chilly, but figured he’d soon warm up. His friend soon called it a day, but Brian continue swimming - until he realised how tired he was feeling and decided to turn back to shore. When he looked around he was surprised that he wasn’t where he'd expected to be and was unable to see the beach. He swam towards a nearby jetty.

A couple of youngsters were crabbing and they asked if he’d enjoyed his swim, but he found he was unable to speak and assumed it was because of the cold – and still very tired. He sat down on a bench, thinking he’d have a few minutes ‘shut-eye’.

Out of time

Unaware of the passage of time and thinking just a few minutes had gone by, Brian awoke realising he ought to get back to Sarah and check his friend had got back safely too. But Brian  had found himself on the ‘wrong side’ of the jetty. He began to walk up to and along the river bank through the woods and onto the road. Still cold and dressed only in his wetsuit, he was relieved when a passing car offered him a lift; he was amazed to discover that the beach he had actually started his swim from was 2½ miles away...

When he arrived back in Looe Brian felt quite disorientated. As the driver dropped him off, Brian heard people calling to him. He was particularly surprised when a man asked, “Are you the guy who’s missing?” Finally, a police officer approached him and, having confirmed that he was indeed Brian Cox who had been reported missing 6 ½ hours earlier, arranged for the RNLI to take Brian to the lifeboat station where a doctor was waiting, along with a very relieved Sarah, his daughter Lily and his friend Bryan.

Diagnosing the mystery

The doctor immediately recognised that Brian showed signs of having suffered a stroke – something that Brian himself found quite shocking. Devon’s Air Ambulance arrived and conveyed Brian to Derriford where it was discovered that one of his arteries was 90% blocked. With treatment to clear the artery, Brian was relieved that his speech recovered immediately and, after just over a week in hospital, he was allowed home.

I had no idea that everyone was looking for me,' Brian explained later. 'My disappearance had alerted the police, the RNLI, the coastguards and then Devon Air Ambulance. I had no sense of time and didn’t know I was ill. I have so much gratitude to everyone; I couldn’t have had a better service anywhere in the world. They were awesome and get 11 out of 10 for everything they did that day. Now I’m planning to do some serious fundraising!

Thank you to Ian Foster of RNLI for the above image

and to Bob Stark for the banner picture at the top of this page.

In 2018 it cost £7.5 million to keep Devon's Air Ambulances flying. It's thanks to our supporters that we are able to attend incidents and bring the critical care that's needed to our patients.

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