On a wintry Saturday morning in January this year, Macauley Whitfield was up early and putting in a couple of hours work at the family business, a scrap metal yard just outside Cullompton. Keen to finish his work as he had plans to meet up with friends, he ventured off towards Honiton at around 10.30am. 

On his way, riding a quad bike with his friend Lloyd, they came across a friend who was having difficulty guiding two horses along an icy lane. Being the kind of person that would help anyone in trouble, Macauley pulled up and stopped to assist them. Stepping off the quad, he immediately crashed to the ground having slipped on ice. In a split second the horse kicked out, striking Macauley on the side of the head.  

Time-critical care and a flight to Derriford

Macauley’s friends rushed to calm the horse and help Macauley but could see that he had sustained a serious injury and was losing a lot of blood. They called 999 to get help and while trying their best to keep him warm, the land ambulance soon arrived. The crew quickly assessed Macauley and called for the assistance of the air ambulance as they could see that Macauley was going to need urgent treatment at a major trauma centre.

Macualley’s dad, Mark, recalled, 

When we arrived, I could see that Macauley was already on a stretcher and his head was bound with a huge white bandage. He couldn’t talk and as I looked to the floor, I saw that he had lost a lot of blood, I thought the worst. Knowing the air ambulance had just landed, I knew his injury had to be serious.

Macauley’s brother, Danny, added, ‘I remember the air ambulance crew being so calm, they weighed up the situation, spoke with the other paramedics and just did what they needed to do.

Once Macauley was ready to board the helicopter, Danny and Joe helped to carry the stretcher to the waiting aircraft and Danny told his brother he would see him soon. His dad also told his son that he would be OK and that he was in safe hands. In just 18 minutes Macauley would arrive at Derriford Major Trauma Centre in Plymouth.

Meanwhile, Macauley’s mum, Sharon, had contacted Macauley’s girlfriend, Anna, and picked her up - at this point unsure of where Macauley was to be taken. Upon hearing that he was en-route to Derriford, they both set off to meet her husband and older son at the hospital.

Macauley was already in Derriford hospital’s A&E department and that’s where his parents found him, unable to talk or move. He had been assessed by a specialist trauma team who had undertaken a series of tests, and he was now awaiting an operation.

A fantastic recovery

Following his surgery Macauley was admitted to the Erme Neurological ward and in need of constant monitoring. Due to the injury, his speech was affected along with his motor skills, even eating with a spoon was difficult.

Sharon told us, ‘I was absolutely terrified that my son wouldn’t be able to walk again or even talk, but he was alive, and he was in the best place and every day he made progress. I remember visiting just four days later to see him walking between two nurses along the corridor – that still gives me goosebumps, I was so proud.’

As Macauley prepared to come home, he was required to undertake several activities including a trip to the hospital's WHSmith to see if he could navigate his route and handle the complexities of making a purchase on his own. He also had to walk up and down the steep flight of steps to the Derriford car park. His consultant, Dr Fewings, who had kept the family fully informed was delighted with his progress and finally gave his parents the thumbs up to take their son home with no more than Paracetamol and strict orders to get lots of rest. Mark told us,

While Macauley was in hospital, the phone didn’t stop ringing with people wishing him well and checking on his progress, not just family and friends, but colleagues and our customers who knew Macauley well. We can’t thank them enough for all their support, it was a terrible time, and we are just pleased that he is here with us now and doing so well. We are just so thankful to the land ambulance team and the air ambulance crew for coming so quickly to help save my boy’s life.

The Whitfield family have made a personal donation to Devon Air Ambulance to say thank you for helping their son and we were proud to go along to meet the family and accept a cheque for £2,000 earlier this year. They now also have DAA collection boxes rooted firmly in their office at the scrapyard and pledge to continue their fundraising efforts in the months to come.

We are incredibly grateful to all of our amazing supporters, many of whom are former patients whose stories make an important difference to our work.

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