A Friday morning began much like any other for Neil Girling, of West Buckland near Kingsbridge, but the typical routine changed swiftly that April in 2018.

Neil runs Tri-Ocean Surf in South Hams Business Park near Bantham with business partner Dave Grover. They had been running the water sports equipment company for 14 years, specialising in the wholesale and retail of surf boards, stand up paddle boards and kayaks among other things.

Much of their raw material comes from South Africa and, on this particular morning, a 40’ high cube lorry had arrived full of new stock. Neil was preparing to off-load the goods and climbed the steps to the back of container. About 1.5 metres off the ground, however, Neil slipped and fell backwards. Landing heavily and awkwardly, he immediately realised that something was seriously wrong. He saw that his foot was jutting at a very odd angle and that he evidently had an open fracture of the ankle.

A colleague ran to his aid, ensuring that Neil didn’t move and found a cover to keep him warm, whilst phoning for emergency assistance. It took some time for the land crew to arrive and they, too, could see that Neil had suffered a serious break. Knowing that he needed interventions that they were unable to provide, they called for Devon Air Ambulance to assist.

With the helicopter landing in a neighbouring field, Critical Care Paramedics Alex Sanders-Page and Grant Thompson, with Dr Alex Cross, all sped to help. Administering ketamine to reposition Neil’s ankle, Neil remembers his colleagues being advised to look away! He also recalls a sense of ‘not being quite there’, but fortunately he has no recollection of any pain during the procedure – just a realisation and relief that his ankle and foot looked a whole lot more normal afterwards. Neil was then stretchered and carried over to the waiting helicopter which conveyed him to Derriford Hospital. He had broken his tibia and fibula which required further surgery the following day and a few more days in hospital.

After almost six months off work, there followed a lengthy period of rehabilitation and recovery for Neil, which included the need to buy an automatic car as he was unable to drive his manual vehicle.

Rebilding his strength has been a long-term aim and Neil remembers the sense of achievement when he managed the half-mile walk from his home to his local pub, albeit with two sticks – he was so chuffed that he wrote to his physiotherapist to let him know of his success.

Devon Air Ambulance Trust became aware of Neil some months later when a cheque arrived for a magnificent £4,000. Calling to thank him for such generosity, they learned that Neil doesn’t take a salary from Tri-Ocean Surf, rather an annual dividend. He had chosen instead to donate the equivalent money as a company donation to a local charity which, in turn, earned the company a tax deduction. It was this tax rebate that was then donated to the Air Ambulance that had helped him that day in April ’18. So, whilst Neil is grateful to the skills and service that helped him that day, DAA is extremely grateful that, thanks to his generosity, we can continue to help even more people.

DID YOU KNOW?: A Limited Company can receive tax relief on donations to any charity (it used to be local only) up to the level of company profits!