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Father raises funds for Devon Air Ambulance after son defies the odds with cliff fall

A dad-of-two will be using pedal power to travel the whole length of the country to raise money for Devon Air Ambulance (DAA) after they came to the rescue of his seven-year-old son.

Paul Shehean, 38, from Oldland Common, Bristol, was on holiday last summer in Newton Ferrers, South Devon, when his son, Finley, lost his footing and stumbled over the edge of a cliff face, falling 15 to 20 feet onto jagged rocks below.

Due to quick thinking from Paul who made the frantic scramble down to the foot of the cliff, while his wife, Kate, managed to run and find a mobile phone signal to call for help, DAA arrived on the scene where they stabilised Finley before conveying him to Derriford Hospital in Plymouth. Finley was rushed into the AEU Trauma Unit for X-rays. Thankfully, after spending the night in hospital under observation, Finley made a full recovery.

Now, Paul is preparing to take on his own test of endurance as he cycles the 969-mile journey from Land’s End to John O’Groats, in just nine days, to raise money for the Charity.

Paul said: “The sight of my eldest boy falling from the cliff and disappearing from view will be one that will haunt me for the rest of my life. Time seemed to slow down and stop in that split second that he fell and the sense of fight or flight truly kicked in as I contemplated throwing myself off the cliff face after him. It seemed like an eternity but it must only have been 30 seconds until I managed to make my way down to him. When I got there and he was lying motionless and bleeding heavily, I genuinely feared the worst.”

By sheer coincedence a surgeon happened to be passing in a boat, he was able to assess Finley in situ before getting him onto the boat and rowing him to the pontoon at Newton Ferrers.

Paul added: “There were many people who were on hand to help us that day and each and every one of them was incredible and we will never be able to thank them enough – from the surgeon in the boat, and the couple on the jetty who gave my wife chocolate to help calm her down, to the ambulance crew who arrived on the scene and gave me and my youngest son, Noah, aged five, a lift to the hospital so that we could be with Finley.

“We are eternally grateful to the staff and volunteers at DAA who risk their own lives daily to help rescue people like Finley. Being able to raise money for the charity is really only a small way of being able to say thank you. I don’t feel as though my family and I can ever really thank them enough, but we know that DAAT is extremely grateful for all of the donations that they receive. The fact that the crew were potentially putting their own safety at risk due to the location of where Finley fell, goes some way to describing the calibre of the people who work for DAA.”

Paul will leave Land’s End on September 9 before cycling the rugged coastline of Cornwall, up to the rolling hills and valleys of the Peak District, right up to the barren landscape of the Scottish Highlands, to the finish line at John O’Groats. He will be leaving luxury and comfort behind while camping along the way in a two-man tent.

As well as training three times a week for the challenge, Paul is currently organising further fundraising events, both in Plymouth and his home city of Bristol.

Devon Air Ambulance Fundraising Director, Caroline Creer, added “We are so grateful to Paul and all of his family’s support since we airlifted Finley, and we are, of course, so pleased that Finley has made a full recovery. Paul’s Land’s End to John O’Groats sponsored cycle is a brilliant fundraising challenge, and the additional fundraisers in the lead up will make such a difference to his fundraising total. We would like to wish Paul the best of luck with his challenge and we look forward to supporting him throughout. It’s such an overall positive outcome from what could have been a very tragic event.”

Paul is appealing to local businesses or anyone who might be able to donate a prize for an auction, or raffle, in aid of DAA, and would welcome donations to help him reach his target. Contact Paul via email or visit his Just Giving page to find out more. 

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