When Helipad’s Debbie Gregory spoke to patient Gary Palmer in December 2019, she was amazed to hear him say that he ‘still had a broken leg’. Gary had been involved in a road traffic collision where he was knocked from his motorbike, back in September 2018!

He explained that, for a variety of reasons and despite much metalwork and pins, the bone in his leg hadn’t healed. Thankfully, he is now using an amazing machine called an Exogen, which uses low-intensity ultrasound to promote bone growth, and it is beginning to show results. 

“I’ve started going out for short walks with my dog again, albeit with two crutches, but it’s great to be out in the fresh air again.”

The collision, on the A39 in North Devon, left Gary with multiple injuries, including facial injuries, a broken arm, nose and pelvis and a severely broken femur. A Devon Air Ambulance crew was dispatched, and critical care paramedics Mark Hawley and Grant Thompson were swiftly at the scene.

Gary, a motorcyclist for over 30 years, had been riding that morning with two good friends.

“There were often eight or nine of us that went out together but, on this occasion, it was just Barry, Rob and me. I don’t have any recollection of the incident, but my friends told me that we were in a line of traffic heading towards Barnstaple when a car coming towards us just pulled straight across my path to go into a field that was being used for overflow parking. Apparently, according to witnesses, I didn’t even have time to brake!”

The collision was witnessed by Gary’s two friends who, despite their own shock, administered CPR until the medics arrived. Gary was in urgent need of surgery and was monitored en-route to Derriford Hospital, with Barry and Rob remaining at the scene for several hours, talking to the police and giving statements. 

As is often the case, the repercussions of the incident have been far-reaching. As well as the very real emotional impact on his family and friends, Gary - who lives in Verwood, Dorset - runs his own car valeting business, but hasn’t been able to work since the incident.

Frustrated by his lack of independence in the months following the incident, and unable to drive a manual car while his left leg was still healing, Gary changed to an automatic. 

As the Exogen machine is finally making a difference, Gary is now hopeful of re-opening his business in spring this year. Keen to let all his customers know, Gary drove 45 miles to his closest Devon Air Ambulance shop, in Honiton, to buy Christmas cards to announce his plans! Many of his clients have already responded saying how delighted they are to hear his news and they are happy to book their vehicles in when he re-opens.

Coincidentally, we included a story in our last Helipad of another motorcyclist, David, who had also been involved in a nasty accident and, lo and behold, it turned out that Gary and David were in opposite beds in the same ward at the same hospital at the same time!  Not surprisingly, the two families also felt a common bond as they willed their loved ones to get better. Gary explains,

There’s no doubt that the accident has been life-changing. I’ve ridden a motorbike for decades; it’s been my social life as well as my transport but I won’t from now on, and that takes some getting used to. Not being able to work, seeing the impact of PTSD on my family and friends, the lengthy legal case and everything associated with it – it’s definitely life-changing. But, I’m still here, and I can’t thank everyone enough for their support. 2020 is a new decade - bring it on.

It's thanks to your fantastic support that our air ambulance service and expert crews can keep attending our patients. A one-off or regular gift helps us to reach people in Devon in the most severe, time-critical, emergencies. If you feel you can make a gift then your donation truly does make a difference.


  • Banner - 3 motorbikes at Porlock
  • Top right - Gary's bike at the crash scene
  • Above left - Gary Palmer 
  • Above right - Gary and his friend Barry the morning of the accident