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What happened when a patient needed assisting during lockdown in summer 2020?

Needing the emergency services at any time can be traumatic for all those involved. Needing the emergency services throughout the past few months of Coronavirus has had even greater consequences for our patients and their families.

One such patient is Neil from Torquay, who was attended and assisted by both a land ambulance crew and Devon Air Ambulance.

In May 2020, Neil - helped by his wife, Katherine - was finishing the building of a handicapped access ramp in their church when the circular saw he was using caught the sleeve of his sweatshirt and pulled his left arm into the saw, effectively amputating his arm above the wrist. 

Neil needed urgent medical assistance and, as we now prepare for the festivities of Christmas, he looks back at the last few months, that have been filled with both good and bad times.

Neil explains, “The bad times, not surprisingly, revolve around the incident: the shock and horror of the accident itself, the fear of losing my arm, the subsequent nightmares, the pain, the frustrations, the disappointment of bad news, the inability to sleep and the worry for my wife, with complications of corona-virus meaning there was no option to visit me in hospital.”

The good times, however, kept Neil’s spirit positive. “There are so many things to be grateful for,” he explained. “The calm of my wife as she phoned 999, helped me to apply a tourniquet and led the Air Ambulance team to my rescue. The dedicated team of surgeons, theatre staff and nurses at Derriford Hospital – who, to my complete amazement, saved my arm. Also, being reunited with my wife, after 10 long days in hospital, to begin my lengthy recovery at home and as an out-patient at the Exeter Hand Rehabilitation unit.

"My daily exercises have been hard and painful. However, seeing and feeling my progress has kept me going. Six weeks after the accident, I picked up a reel of tape and cried with elation – it was the first ‘normal’ thing I’d been able to do with my injured hand. And, finally, learning at 19 weeks, that the Ulna bone in my forearm had completely healed!”

Neil was also touched by the support and encouragement he and Katherine had received from family, friends and the whole congregation from their Church. Neil continued:

“The well wishes of so many people was really heart-warming. I know my journey will be a long one but, for now, I am looking forward to Christmas with renewed hope for a good recovery. However hard done by we may feel, there is always someone who has suffered more and we must all count our blessings. Our faith keeps us strong and our love for one another is truly remarkable."

The Devon Air Ambulance literally saved my life and it’s humbling to realise that they could only have done that thanks to the donations and legacies from people I will never even know. It is truly a miracle that they were there when I needed them.”

Thank you for helping patients like Neil by supporting our campaign this year. Your generosity helps us to continue to be there to care.

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  • Banner image: Neil shows the specialist Pico dressing – a battery-operated pump and dressing that constantly sucks air and fluid from the wound, helping to aid healing.
  • Above left: Katherine and Neil