It was a beautiful sunny day back in July 2011 and Sonia Allin was looking forward to meeting up with a special friend for a get together in Hatherleigh.

Sonia knew the route well and built into her journey, a stop to refuel her moped at the Beacon Garage on the A3124 Torrington to Winkleigh road.  Living at Dolton Beacon could be quite remote and Sonia relied on her trusty moped to get around and about the local area.

After refuelling, Sonia was ready to get on her way but first needed to navigate the awkward junction to cross the carriageway. She crossed the first part of the road waiting in the centre for a gap in the traffic to cross over the second.

A split-second decision

Looking ahead she could see a Range Rover approaching but felt it was far enough to make a move. As she edged out into the carriageway she realised she had misjudged the speed at which the Range Rover was travelling and there was no way for the driver to avoid hitting her. 

The back of Sonia’s moped was clipped sending her shooting across the other side of the road still upright, until the bike finally came to a stop and fell onto its side with Sonia trapped underneath it.

Getting herself free, Sonia didn’t realise the extent of her injuries and actually stood up, only to fall to the floor seconds later with a severe dislocation to her ankle.

A second driver who happened to be a nurse at Barnstaple hospital stopped to help, and immediately rang 999 for urgent medical assistance, she also called Sonia’s husband to let him know about the incident. She didn’t know that her 999 call was the second one to be made as the team at the Dolton Garage opposite, who had witnessed the accident happen just seconds before, were straight on the phone to get help from the emergency services.  

The Police arrived on scene and immediately went about closing the road and securing the area to make it safe. Although nearer to the location of Sonia’s accident, our Eaglescott helicopter crew in North Devon were already responding to another emergency incident elsewhere so our Exeter based helicopter was called to help and landed on scene just as the land ambulance crews also arrived.

A painful encounter

Sonia was assessed at the scene and it was immediately obvious that her ankle was severely dislocated sitting at a right angle to her leg. Our crew knew that Sonia would need some pretty strong pain killers to be able to maneuver her ankle back into position. It would need to be straightened to preserve blood flow and a traction splint would be needed to hold it in place, making it stable for her onward journey.

The crew administered ketamine which would help Sonia to bear the discomfort of them pulling her foot back into place, it was at this point that Sonia can remember thinking that she didn’t like our crew very much anymore!  

Once Sonia was safely packaged and ready to fly, she was airlifted to Barnstaple hospital where she would undergo X-rays and further scans to check for any unseen injuries. Luckily, the dislocated ankle was the only injury she sustained, it could have been much worse. 

Sonia was in hospital for a week having daily physiotherapy sessions and had to be able to get around on crutches before she was allowed to leave. Throughout her recovery, she had a total of 5 different casts applied to her leg. The first just until the swelling went down, the second due to a blister bursting within the plaster and another 3 to make the injury more stable as at one point the swelling was so intense that she felt the plaster might actually begin to crack.

Sonia told us when we visited her recently:

I saw the air ambulance land in Pilton Park in Barnstaple some years ago and I thought then, I must share my story, it was the first time I had seen the helicopter up close since my incident. I even spoke with a crew member who happened to be one who had attended my accident and even remembered my injury! Amazing! 

'It’s still taken me a while to get in touch, but I’d like to say thank you so much for all the support and reassurance given to me that day and the great care I received, I can’t thank the crew enough, they were so kind. I was particularly scared of flying as this was the first flight I had made in my entire life! They kept me calm and made me feel safe. I remembered asking one of the crew if we had taken off yet and was told with a smile ‘We’re about to land in Barnstaple!’ We had been airborne for just 7 minutes and I hadn’t even realised.'

Sonia is still in touch with the kind nurse who stopped her car to help at the roadside and almost 12 years since the accident she still feels some pain when the weather is cold – she is also cautious about keeping her ankle protected to prevent any further injury. Due to the swift action of bystanders and the medical professionals that came to her aid, she has made an excellent recovery. 

It took Sonia a while to feel ready to share her story with is. Not all patients feel ready - if ever - to share their experiences with us, especially those incidents that were particularly traumatic. However, if you do have a story you would lke to share, we woul love to hear from you and find out how you are doing now. 

Share your story