The exhilaration of approaching a jump on your mountain bike, taking off, flying through the air and landing cleanly and smoothly... The anticipation as friends watch and prepare to follow... Then the realisation as the landing goes awry...

Harry Adam, aged 13, from Sidmouth, was out with some friends and their dads for an afternoon of mountain biking in a popular area on Woodbury Common when things went horribly wrong. As Harry crash-landed, it was immediately evident that he had suffered some serious injuries to three of his four limbs.

“Surprisingly, I wasn’t in too much pain to start with,” Hary said. “I guess it was the adrenalin that helped. And I knew I could move my chest and my head, which was a real relief.”

As his friends rallied to call the emergency services and to reassure Harry that help was on its way, no-one realised just how many people would attend. By the time Harry’s parents Emma and Gary arrived, just a short while later, the scene was crowded with medics, including a Critical Care Car crew from Devon Air Ambulance, along with a land ambulance crew and personnel from HART (Hazardous Area Response Team).

Harry’s accident happened in a densely wooded area of Woodbury Common. Devon Air Ambulance Critical Care paramedic, Liam Kilbride, explained:

It was clear straight away that Harry had broken both his arms, his wrists, and his left leg. Although the land ambulance crew had already given Harry Entonox to manage his pain, we needed to administer further pain relief as quickly as possible. But, for various reasons, it wasn’t possible to canulate by an intravenous line and we had to use an intra-osseous injection, straight into Harry’s shin, through which we could then administer the drug, Ketamine. While Harry was sedated, we were then able to splint his limbs and prepare him for the flight to hospital. The whole time, however, Harry was the bravest patient I’ve met. He was such a trooper and never once complained about anything!

With Harry having undergone major trauma, back up was called for from Devon’s Air Ambulance, to convey him to Bristol Children’s Hospital. Gary and Emma were at the scene and were grateful for the expertise and skills of the medics to ensure Harry was as comfortable as possible. It was all hands-on deck to help extricate Harry from where he’d fallen and take him by stretcher to the helicopter in a nearby clearing. Mum Emma explained:

When we arrived, I could see that Harry’s limbs were really deformed but I was so reassured that he was absolutely in the best possible hands. He was talking to us so, even though it was really hard not to be able to go in the helicopter with him to Bristol, we knew he’d be ok.

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When asked what he’d thought when he knew that the Devon Air Ambulance was on its way, Harry said, 'Oh good, I get a free helicopter ride!' Harry remembers a great view of the sky saying, 'I think I was still a bit sedated from the Ketamine.'

Harry was well looked after in the helicopter, with Devon Air Ambulance Critical Care paramedic Mark Hawley saying, “He was such a hero. He’d obviously done quite a lot of damage, but was so brave!”

The following day, young Harry had surgery lasting eight hours, to wire, pin and plate both arms and his left leg. The Corona virus restrictions still in place at the time meant that whilst Emma was allowed to stay, and his dad allowed to visit, Harry didn’t see his brother, George, aged 11, for nearly a week, something that both boys found tough.

After 8 days in Bristol and a further 4 days in Royal Devon & Exeter, Harry was discharged to move in with his grandparents for 2 weeks, just around the corner from his home. With two broken arms and a broken leg, not surprisingly, Harry’s mobility was severely restricted.

He was still using crutches when he returned to school at Sidmouth College in September, but he is now back doing almost all the things he loves.

I rode my bike last weekend for the first time since the accident,” he explained. “It wasn’t even damaged! But my helmet has been replaced as that was completely shattered. Seeing my broken helmet was a real reminder that if I hadn’t been wearing it, it might have been my head that was smashed!

Since his recovery, Harry is now planning a challenge to raise funds for Devon Air Ambulance. “I’m not sure how, where or when yet,” Harry explained, “but I really want to pay back some of the cost of everything they did for me last June.”

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