Chrissie Peel has worked for DAA since 1998, initially as a volunteer helping in Head Office and servicing our collection boxes before moving over to the Retail team in 2001. She is now our Retail Operations Manager. Chrissie had planned to be a District Nurse, but an accident in November 1997 changed everything.

Chrissie, then aged 21, was driving her mum’s car when, coming round a bend and fearing that the wheels weren’t responding, Chrissie over-compensated and steered into the path of an oncoming car. They hit almost head on and Chrissie’s car spun right round.

“It was as if it happened in slow motion,” Chrissie explained. “I clearly remember so much noise – metal crumpling and glass shattering – but I couldn’t understand any of it. I opened my eyes and saw the road I’d just been driving along, and didn’t know what had happened.”

Chrissie’s memories thereafter are patchy and much of what she knows is what she was told after the event. Whilst the other driver and passenger escaped with minor injuries, Chrissie remained helpless, her legs trapped under the crumpled dashboard. “I didn’t even know if I still had my legs as I couldn’t see anything below my knees. Strangely, I remember hearing Robbie Williams singing Angels coming from the car radio.”

As fire crews cut the doors off the car and ambulance crews attended to her, they learned that the Air Ambulance was on its way.

Glass from the shattered windscreen had gone into her eyes; Chrissie remembers keeping her eyes closed and relying on her hearing to learn what was happening. She explains the feeling of everything being ‘out of focus’, she was aware, but unable to deal with anything. Aircrew paramedics Helen Myers and Mark Hayle assessed Chrissie at the scene and she was airlifted to RD&E with severe injuries to her pelvis, which had twisted and broken in four places; an open fracture to her right femur, a broken left femur, damage to both knees and an impacted shin.

While Chrissie was undergoing surgery her mum, Margaret, had an anxious 8-hour wait for news. Margaret explained, “After surgery to pin her pelvis and broken legs, Chrissie was in ITU for 36 hours and in hospital for a total of a month. We knew her recovery would be lengthy and, realising that she would have to move back home with us, we turned our dining room into a bedroom for her – complete with hospital bed and ‘monkey frame’ to help her mobility.”

Unable to stand or sit for long, her first outings were in a special reclining wheelchair.  It was just a year later, and still using crutches, when Chrissie became a Patient Representative for DAA, working alongside colleagues Caroline, Sarah and Jenny – all of whom still work for the Trust.

Chrissie, now a mum to 5-year old Vinny, says that she can predict the weather as well as the Met Office. “I am completely mobile now but my legs and hip joints are so sensitive to changes in pressure that I can tell if we’re going to have a storm long before the weather forecasters! It can be really painful and sometimes it feels as if my bones are having a ‘migraine’!”

Although this was a horrible experience for Chrissie at the time, we feel very fortunate that she went on to recover very well and to have had Chrissie on board as such an incredible member of the team for so many years. Do you have a story you would like to share with us? We'd love to hear from you.