Twenty years after his incident, we received an email from a former patient. Joe’s email opened with:

“The 19th April 2021 will mark 20 years since my Dad and I were involved in a car accident and suffered severe injuries. I owe my life to the Devon Air Ambulance crew, so I thought it was about time I got in touch to thank the team!”

He went on to explain how he was 15 years old and he and his dad and were heading from Bridport to Exeter on a day out when a car suddenly appeared on the wrong side of the road heading towards them. It swerved to avoid another vehicle, but it was too late: the pair were hit head-on, with the passenger side where Joe was seated and took taking the full force of the impact.

Joe’s dad Jon continues:

“There was an incredible noise and a terrific impact that swung our car round. Then it all seemed strangely still and quiet, except for the moans of pain from Joe. The windscreen was shattered and liquid was spilling from the car into the road. I knew I had to get Joe out but as soon as I put my foot to the ground, it was obvious I’d broken by ankle, so I hopped round to his side. Realising his door was compacted and wouldn’t open, I hopped back and pulled him across the driver’s seat to the grass verge, thankfully his legs weren’t trapped.”

Joe recalls the experience:

By now a lot of cars had stopped and people were pacing up and down. Amidst all the chaos, several of them kicked my injured ankle by accident - I can still vividly remember the excruciating pain! I also pulled down my sleeve to see my wrist bone was badly broken and almost protruding through the skin.

Joe's most vivid memory of the Devon Air Ambulance helicopter landing close by was that of a great sense of relief. Jon was aware that his son had suffered multiple injuries and was grateful that the aircrew were there to assume responsibility for Joe’s care. Joe, meanwhile, recalls their professionalism: “The DAA crew were incredibly efficient and thorough in tending to my injuries and quickly identified that blood wasn’t flowing to my left hand due to the severity of the break in my wrist.”

Joe and Jon were both airlifted to Royal Exeter & Devon Hospital, attended initially in the then brand-new Accident & Emergency department, which had opened just three days earlier. They were reassured to be in beds alongside each other before being separated for Joe’s surgery to repair breaks to his hip, leg and wrist. Jon remembers it being a very long night as Joe was in Intensive Care before facing further surgery the following day.

After a week in RD&E, Joe was transferred to Dorchester Hospital for a further two weeks. He remembers, “With injuries to both legs and a broken wrist I wasn’t initially able to use crutches, so I was in a wheelchair. With intensive physio I started the long recovery process just to get walking again. I missed a whole term off school but my family, friends and home tutor were amazing throughout and kept my spirits high. I was able to get back to playing football, albeit very badly!”

I am so incredibly grateful to the Devon Air Ambulance and the amazing crew who rescued us that day and reassured my Dad that everything would be ok. The metalwork in my arm and leg had to be removed six months later but one of the three screws is still in my ankle to this day as it couldn’t be found during surgery! And thankfully, that screw doesn’t set off the metal detector at airports!

We are so pleased that Joe made a good recovery. His story shows that it's never too late to get in touch with us with us. As an organisation that is 100% independent of centralised funding, we continue to welcome your support. 

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