For Dave Farr, of West Charleton near Kingsbridge, 15th February always brings back memories. And this year it will be 10 years since Dave suffered a life-changing accident.
Dave was working for a steel erecting company at the time and he and his colleagues were moving some steel shuttering at a farm near Whimple when things went horrifically wrong. A sheet of the shuttering destabilised and fell, almost ‘cutting Dave in half’. The loss of blood was immediate and, as Dave collapsed, his colleagues called for immediate help.
The farmer had also witnessed the emergency and stressed to the 999 call-taker the urgency of the situation.
Devon Air Ambulance Operations Director, Nigel Hare, was a paramedic on duty that day and was tasked to the job. Arriving at the scene and having liaised with the land crew who had assessed Dave, the helicopter rotors were kept turning and the aircrew operated a ‘hot load’, loading Dave into the aircraft wrapped in a tightly fitting patient carrying device to stabilise his injuries, before transferring him to Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital for immediate life-saving surgery.
Along with a hind quarter amputation (from the hip down), Dave had also severed his femeral artery causing massive blood loss. With life-threatening injuries, Dave was in Intensive Care for nearly six weeks and only after his medication was gradually reduced did his wife, Ruby, break the news to him that their lives would never be the same.
Dave remembers that the mental recovery was much harder than the physical. He was motivated from day one to retain his mobility and wanted, more than anything, to walk his daughter down the aisle on her wedding day.
Astonishingly, this was accomplished just 12 months after the incident. Losing half the hip cage, Dave was unable to have a prosthetic limb fitted so relied on building his strength to use crutches.
It was evident that Dave would be unable to return to his previous job; instead he started his own business –customising motorcycles – with his son; a businesses that is now flourishing. He also studied for a degree in Psychology through the Open University as a way of understanding how the mind copes with both mental and physical adversity. “It was such a lot to get my head round,” Dave explained. “I really needed to understand it and the degree was incredibly useful. My life is indeed different now, but it’s still fulfilling. As well as running a thriving business, I’m also an active grandad to seven lively grandchildren – who don’t bat an eyelid about my missing leg! It was undoubtedly the speed of the Air Ambulance arriving and conveying me to hospital that saved my life that day. It was a privilege to meet the aircrew again some months later – I can’t thank everyone enough for the difference the service has made to our family.”