Mina Butcher was maintaining the boundary hedge to her property adjacent to the old Paignton Cemetery.

This area of the graveyard had been left overgrown for the wildlife and unbeknown to Mina it concealed a partially collapsed grave. While positioning herself to tidy up a particularly dense spot, Mina stumbled into the grave, falling awkwardly, dislocating her left ankle, and suffering a painful open fracture.

Mina’s husband, Brian who was also helping with the maintenance, rushed back home to get the car to take Mina to hospital. In the meantime Mina phoned a neighbour who promptly rushed over to help support her leg. It was clear on Brian’s return that he would not be able to transport Mina to hospital himself, so he called 999.

Mina was worried about the open fracture becoming infected, so her neighbour helped her to stay focused on maintaining the position of her leg and foot to keep her as comfortable as possible.

Brian explained to the 999-call handler that the wound was bleeding so they asked him if he had anything to hand that he could use as a tourniquet to stem the bleeding. Brian recalls:

I remembered that in the boot of the car there was an old duvet cover in case something is particularly muddy when going to the tip. It had recently been washed, so I ripped a bit off and used that, but luckily the bleeding was slowing down.

Locating the patient

The Land Ambulance crew soon arrived and initially struggled to find Mina in the large graveyard. By the time the land ambulance crew found her, Mina could also hear the Devon Air Ambulance aircraft flying overhead.

‘I was sat there waving like mad to the helicopter so they could see me, and they circled round, landing in Stanley Gardens Park on the other side of the new cemetery down the road. When they arrived, they were so friendly and lighthearted. Even joking and asking, ‘What’s going on here then?’ That instantly made me feel comfortable.

A reassuring presence

'Not only were the Devon Air Ambulance crew wonderful at looking after me, but they were also extremely thoughtful to those around me, including my husband, Brian.

'There was no panic or strong emotion; I felt incredibly calm with the crew around.’ 

Once the crew had assessed and treated Mina’s injury, they prepared her for her onward journey to Derriford Major Trauma Centre in Plymouth, she was taken first to the nearby land ambulance to be safely moved to the helicopter which was waiting for her.

Brian helped to move the kit for the air ambulance crews and directed the land ambulance crew to the aircraft. Mina remembers that the doctor on board, Dr Tim Nutbeam, held her hand reassuringly for the entire flight while Advanced Paramedic in Critical Care, John, joked with her to make her feel at ease. Mina added, ‘My recovery started the minute the Devon Air Ambulance crew arrived.’

Daily goals leading to recovery

Mina spent the next twelve nights in Derriford Hospital, Plymouth, with her first operation the day after her incident, and a second procedure eight days later. Shortly after this second procedure, Mina returned home with strict instructions to get lots of rest for the next two weeks. Her care was then transferred to Torbay Hospital, and she was in a non-weight bearing case for six weeks followed by a weight bearing boot for another six weeks.

I could not fault the care that I received from Devon Air Ambulance from that initial rescue to meeting Adrian from the Patient and Family Support Team who kindly came to visit me in hospital, and of course all the wonderful NHS staff at Derriford and Torbay Hospital too.

'Throughout this experience I have always maintained a positive attitude towards recovery, setting myself little goals that I can achieve each week while I continue to attend the outpatient's clinic at Torbay Hospital.’

As part of Mina’s ongoing support from our Patient and Family Support Team, Mina and Brian were both invited to visit our Eaglescott Airbase in November.

The visit gave Mina a chance to see the helicopter up close, meet some of our clinical crew, ask questions about her incident and to find out more about the service provided by us on that eventful day. Thank you, Mina, for sharing your story with us, it was a lovely way to say thank you. 

Do you have a story you would like to share? We would love to hear from you.

These are the airbase visit pictures of Mina, Husband Brian, Kelly & PFST

Mina with husband Brian