It was 23rd March in 2017 and John was working on the threshing machine at his farm, preparing the straw for thatching, when it suddenly stopped working and there appeared to be a blockage.

John attempted to clear it when the machine unexpectedly started up and his overalls became entangled in the moving parts, pulling his leg into the machinery right up to his hip.

At first John imagined that if his co-workers could just help him relieve the pressure or remove the machine part that was trapping his leg then he would be fine. Unaware of the severity of his injuries, John even managed to take photos of his trapped leg and insisted to his colleagues that ‘there’s no way I need the emergency services to help.’

Thankfully his colleagues ignored him and called 999. Both of Devon’s air ambulances were dispatched to the farm at South Molton where they were joined by emergency crews from the fire, police and ambulance services.

When asked how much pain he was in, John replied, “Well, I don’t rightly know how you measure it. I’ve never had a baby so I’m not really sure!” He was, however, grateful for the pain relief that was duly administered while the emergency services worked to dismantle the machine to free his leg.

With the risk that an amputation of his leg at the scene was a very real possibility, the medical team were all relieved to extricate the patient in one piece. They flew John down to Derriford Hospital, still not knowing if his leg would be saved.

Surgeons explained that there was a 50/50 chance of saving the leg and proceeded to insert rods and undertake skin grafts. John was discharged just 10 days later to recover and recuperate at home. He was not out of the woods yet though.

Five months later John developed an infection in the leg and further discussions ensued about whether it would have to be amputated. Thankfully the treatment worked and John kept his leg, something he is understandably grateful for.

Two years on, John is very much involved and back working at the farm, although he now does much of the work from a wheelchair.
John was reunited with the pilot who had conveyed him to Derriford at the Devon County Show. They chuckled over a remembered conversation in the aircraft when pilot Richie had suggested that Dr Kate might need his Gerber knife if she was considering amputation en route to hospital! When asked how he remains so cheerful, John replied:

If you feel OK, you just keep going don’t you? I had amazing care and treatment – all the emergency services were incredible, and I thought Derriford Hospital was like the Royal Hotel; it was amazing. It’s not the only time we’ve seen the Devon Air Ambulance either – it was called to the farm about 10 years ago when my dad had an accident – with the same machine! Not surprisingly, we take even greater care when we use it now. And it was called again, in September last year, when my dad fell from a tractor and dislocated his shoulder!

It's thanks to our supporters that our aircrews are able to respond and act so quickly in time-critical situations and in this case save a limb. Can you help get the essential critical care that's needed to patients like young Grace? There are all sorts of ways to get involved, here are a few.

2 helicopters at narracott farm in south molton

Two Devon Air Ambulances at Narracott Farm in South Molton.