We all love it when various pieces of a jigsaw fall into place and that was the result when we had an email message from Hannah Lapworth.

Hannah chose to donate a beautiful sofa and cuddle chair to our specialist Furniture & Electrical shop, mentioning that DAA was an obvious choice as both she and her father had been airlifted. Patient Liaison Officer, Debbie Gregory wanted to find out more.

Family drama

Hannah had been airlifted when the van she was driving was in a head-on collision with another van in 2009. Fortunately, the fears of serious neck and back injuries were unfounded and Hannah was soon up and about again.

Her dad, Roger Snell, had need of urgent treatment in September 2016. Roger works as a Logistics Officer for the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital and his day had started the same as any other. But, as he got in the car for a lift to work, he collapsed, falling onto the passenger seat. His wife, Jackie picks up the story:

“At the time, I just knew I had to get him to hospital, albeit a different department to his usual place of work! I rushed into A&E asking for help and, eventually, we got Roger out of the car. I didn’t know what the problem was but Roger was almost unconscious and unable to communicate at all. The first tests were for an ECG but the results were clear – so we knew it wasn’t a heart attack. As further tests were being requested, one particular doctor, Dr Alex Cross, was an absolute angel. She kept me informed every step of the way, finally advising that I should gather all the family around. It was such a scary time.

“Coincidentally, I knew that one of my daughters, Natalie, was already in a neighbouring ward at the RD&E as my 4-year old grandson had been admitted the night before with a suspected appendicitis. Little Logan had then been diagnosed with life-threatening peritonitis and was being prepared for surgery! As my other daughter, Hannah, and my sons-in-law also arrived, Dr Alex advised that Roger was suffering from a dissected aorta, a bleed in the heart vessel. They had been in contact with Derriford Hospital and Roger was going to be transferred by Air Ambulance for specialist emergency surgery. Fortunately, my eldest daughter Trudi and her husband Marc got to Plymouth first and were able to sign his consent form. 

“I was so grateful to know that Roger would get to Derriford so quickly by helicopter, but it was awful saying goodbye to him; none of us knew if he would survive the journey, or the surgery.”

A race against time

Leaving daughter Natalie awaiting news of little Logan, and Roger heading to Derriford for the 20-minute flight attended and monitored by Air Ambulance specialist paramedics, Jackie was driven to Plymouth by Hannah and her husband. On arrival, Roger had an 8-hour operation to save his life.

When Jackie saw her husband in ICU, on life-support and attached to a number of tubes and lines, Roger’s chances of survival were given as 50/50. He was kept in an induced coma for over a week. A massive boost for all the family was to learn that little Logan had come through the worst and was finally on the mend.

Even as Roger made a gradual recovery and was transferred from Derriford back to RD&E, he wasn’t out of the woods. After 4 weeks in hospital, he had only been at home for a day when Jackie realised that her husband was going downhill rapidly. Calling an ambulance, it was discovered that Roger had developed sepsis, another dangerous condition, and he was readmitted to RD&E for further treatment.

Tying the stories together

Eighteen months have now passed since Roger collapsed and, whilst he has had various relapses and is still unable to work, the family are all grateful to Devon Air Ambulance for the part they played in saving his life.

As Debbie Gregory learned the story, there were lots of loose ends tied up.

“We knew we’d airlifted Roger, but not his whole story, and we knew we’d airlifted their daughter, but not that it was Hannah. Even the mention of Dr Alex Cross was a coincidence as Dr Cross now works with us on the Air Ambulance!”

As the couple celebrated their 40th anniversary with a party last year, they requested donations to DAA in lieu of gifts. Organising the event, Jackie said,

“Put simply, the Air Ambulance gave Roger the chance of survival. Without the speed of getting him to Derriford for the specialist surgery, we wouldn’t have been celebrating our anniversary at all. We can never thank you enough.”

As well as donating her pre-loved furniture, Hannah also said that she and her family all play our Lottery each week explaining, “It’s such an easy and simple way for us to show our support that gives your charity a regular income stream. Our whole family is so grateful every day for the service.”

Due to patient confidentiality we only hear from about 15% of our patients. We are always grateful to hear our patients' stories as they help to raise awareness of our emergency service. Please do contact us if you have a story you would like to share, and our Patient Liaison Officer will be in touch to see how you are.