It was July 2018 and the school summer holidays had just begun. The Perraton family of Frogmore near Kingsbridge, were looking forward to the coming weeks.

All their plans changed, however, on Sunday 22nd July when 6-year old Lydia was involved in an accident that needed urgent medical attention and a helicopter flight to Bristol Children’s Hospital for specialist surgery.

The family were outdoors that afternoon, with Lydia playing on her bike in the farmyard while her brothers, Henry aged 4 and Lewis aged 9, were riding on the tractor with their dad. Suddenly, Lydia toppled from her bike and her left leg was run over by the wheels of the trailer behind the tractor. 

The South West Ambulance control centre received the emergency call and Devon Air Ambulance was dispatched immediately. As the helicopter landed in a neighbouring field, aircrew paramedics Mark Hawley and Alex Sanders-Page rushed to the farm.

It was clear that Lydia had suffered severe damage to her leg, which was also at risk of infection from the dirt on the farmyard ground. As Lydia was being attended, her mum Vicci, was grateful to learn that she could travel in the helicopter with Lydia as they prepared for the flight to Bristol Children’s Hospital.

With a flight time of just 45 minutes, the helicopter arrived at Bristol and Lydia was rushed through to A&E for the first of two major surgeries.

Within three hours, she underwent a six and a half hour operation, with the priority of removing all the dirt before taking a vein from Lydia’s right leg to restore the blood flow to Lydia’s left foot, which might not otherwise have been saved. The following day, little Lydia had a further 12 hours of surgery to rebuild her calf, using skin and muscle tissue from her shoulder.

Incredibly, Lydia was discharged from the Children’s Hospital just two weeks later, already propelling herself around in a wheelchair. She spent the rest of the school holidays using her wheelchair and even returned to school in September still using it, grateful that her school had been adapted for wheelchair use some years earlier – and Lydia was the first pupil to need it!

When Helipad’s Debbie Gregory caught up with Lydia's mum Vicci earlier this year, she expressed her absolute pride in her young daughter:

Lydia was amazing all the way through. She was always so strong about everything and just got on with it. She used the wheelchair initially before progressing on to crutches for a further few weeks. She still can’t fully bend her knee, but she has been gradually rebuilding her strength with physiotherapy. There's some significant scarring down the whole of her left leg, and she still wears surgical stockings at the moment; we’re hoping with scar management, they’ll lessen over the years and that they won’t worry her too much as she gets older. Her limp is now barely noticeable and she really doesn’t let it bother her, she’s just been great.

In spring 2019, Lydia decided she would like to raise money for Devon Air Ambulance and set about organising a book and toy sale, along with an Afternoon Tea in Chillington Village Hall.

The event, which was held in April, was so successful it raised a magnificent £1,100! Lydia and her family were delighted to be reunited with paramedics Mark Hawley and Alex Sanders-Page at a visit to Exeter Airbase. Mark was full of praise for the little girl:

Lydia was incredible,' he explained. 'She was so brave and didn’t complain once. It’s fantastic to see her today; and brilliant to see that she has made such a remarkable recovery.

Devon Air Ambulance is a charity that exists thanks o its supporters, who make it possible for the aircrews to respond and act so quickly in time-critical situations. Can you help get the essential critical care that's needed to patients like young Lydia? There are all sorts of ways to get involved, here are a few.


Left: Lydia with her brothers, Henry and Lewis at the airbase visit, Right: Lydia recovering from her injury in hospital