Since she was encourages at the age of 4, Sally Smith* from the Honiton area has always been a keen cyclist. She remembers many years of fabulous cycling all over the place with her dad.

Fast forward several years and even as a busy working mum, Sally still loved to get out on her bike and would clock up as many miles as she could each week.

One evening last June however, things didn’t turn out as planned. Sally went out on her bike early evening but her husband, Tom*, started getting concerned when she was out longer than expected. He looked out for her then and called her mobile phone. It was duly answered, but by an unexpected male voice.

A local man passing by had come across Sally and her crashed bike on a quiet road in Fairmile, not far from the family home. Tom soon learned that the emergency services were on their way as he raced to the incident. He was shocked by what he found.

Sally had suffered head and facial injuries, including having a tooth knocked out and her eyes were closed. Even more alarmingly, she appeared to have no idea who Tom was.

A land ambulance crew were soon at the scene and Tom heard them call for the Air Ambulance. On arrival, Devon Air Ambulance paramedics, Adrian Parker and Grant Thompson, recognised that Sally needed to be conveyed as a matter of urgency to the specialist major trauma centre at Derriford in Plymouth.

As the helicopter flew Sally straight to Plymouth, a journey of around 15 minutes, Tom set off to follow by road – only to discover that the A38 was closed. His journey seemed to take forever as he had to go on an extremely diverted route, all the time wondering about his wife.

A CT scan revealed that Sally had suffered a bleed on the brain and a back injury caused by a T9 fracture. Tom was advised that his wife had only a 20% chance of survival and she remained in Intensive Care for the following few days. There was huge relief when, finally out of the coma, Sally gave Tom ‘the look’ and he knew that, however long it took, his wife was going to be ok.

A few weeks later, Sally wrote to thank Devon Air Ambulance for their help that evening in June. She explained that she had spent two weeks in Derriford then a further five weeks in RD&E before being transferred to Mardon rehabilitation centre for another three weeks.

I wanted to let you know what your wonderful aid has achieved for me: I am still alive, my eyes and body are working and I feel quite a lot like myself, which is truly amazing considering what the poor crew arrived to.

Sally continued:

"I thought you would like to hear one of your success stories because without you I doubt I would have recovered so well and, as the hospital told me, I am recovering quickly! I wanted to personally thank the wonderful crew that saved me. Thank you so very much, I am feeling emotionally happy to say that.”

The couple and their young son visited Devon Air Ambulance’s Exeter airbase in October 2019 and were reunited with Adrian, one of the paramedics who had attended the incident.

Not surprisingly, it was an emotional reunion for the family, but also very therapeutic. Writing to DAA the following day Tom said, “I just wanted to say thanks for yesterday’s visit to the DAA at Exeter Airport. It was lovely to meet you all and I thought It was great for Sally and all the other people there to meet some of the team that had helped them in their hour of need. Thank you so much.”

*name changed to protect patient identity

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