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Derrick Small from Chatham in Kent, was enjoying a Christmas break with his wife, Janet, and their son and future daughter-in-law, David and Fran, at Fran’s parent’s Bed & Breakfast in Poundstock, near Bude.

On Christmas morning, Derrick and his son took themselves off for a cycle ride around the North Cornish lanes where they were staying.  “We knew that Fran’s parents were busy getting everything ready for lunch so we were really happy to make the most of some quality time out, doing what we both love,” explained Derrick.

The scenic route took in many downhill lanes then, inevitably, their journey back took them uphill. Until that point, everything had seemed fine. But the uphills caused Derrick some problems…

An uphill struggle

Derrick realised that he was struggling a lot more than usual and, despite taking glucose tablets thinking his problems were caused by his diabetes, he was unable to continue. David called home and Fran came to collect them. Unable to get out of the car, the family immediately called 999 and were relieved that the Devon Air Ambulance was sent to their rescue.

Aircrew paramedics Adrian Parker and Paul Robinson rushed to help and realised that Derrick was in cardiac arrest.  As Janet explained that her husband was also Type 1 diabetic, the aircrew knew that Derrick needed urgent help from a hospital. During the flight from Poundstock to Derriford Hospital, Derrick continued to suffer further cardiac arrests, each time being brought back by the expertise of the two paramedics on board.

Adrian explained, “It’s quite rare for a patient to keep arresting. Usually, once we’ve got a rhythm back, a patient will be stable enough to fly and we’ll monitor them accordingly en route to a specialist treatment centre. In Derrick’s case, though, he just kept arresting, so it was touch and go the whole way.”

Contrary to everything they had planned, Janet, David and Fran spent the afternoon at Derriford Hospital, all in shock about what had happened and fearing for Derrick’s life. David’s brother, Martin, learned of the drama late on Christmas Day and made the mercy dash to Devon from his home in Kent. “I drove the whole way not knowing if dad would still be alive,” explained Martin. “I knew that I needed to get down to Devon as quickly as possible. I am still so grateful that Devon Air Ambulance was available to help dad when he needed it; he had the very best medical care from the crew.” 

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Road to recovery

Fortunately for the whole family, after heart surgery and eight days in hospital, Derrick was able to leave and he and his wife journied back to Kent where Derrick’s condition was monitored at a local hospital.

Incredibly, Derrick, now 74, made a superb recovery and continues to live a full and active life. Much to everyone’s relief, Derrick and Janet returned to Poundstock the following summer – for the wedding of David and Fran. And Derrick is now the very happy and proud grandfather to two granddaughters and a grandson. David said,

It was certainly a Christmas we’ll never forget. We so appreciate everything that Devon Air Ambulance did for dad that day. Martin and I still have our dad, my mum still has her husband and my young son and my two nieces still have a really great granddad who absolutely adores them all.  We just can’t thank everyone enough.

Such was the gratitude of David and Fran that, instead of wedding gifts, they requested donations and nearly £700 was raised for DAAT. 

Thank you for helping patients like Derrick by supporting our campaign this year. Your generosity helps us to continue to be there to care.

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Derrick with his family following his recovery