UPLIFTING STORIESHarriet recalls the day she was airlifted by HIOWAA
On 25th October 2013, Harriet was involved in a car accident on the A31. She was rescued by HIOWAA and taken to Southampton General Hospital. She sustained many injuries, and all four quadrants of her hips were broken. Harriet was on a placement year at the time, but was determined to get back to Harper Adams University where she was studying. She worked hard and, incredibly, she passed her degree.
My name is Harriet – I am 23 years old, and at the time of my accident in 2013 I was 21. I have recently completed my degree in animal welfare and behaviour at Harper Adams University. I’m an animal lover and a family girl. I have a very supportive family and I would not have been able to get through my accident without them.
On the day of my accident, I was supposed to be visiting my Auntie in London after work. As part of my degree, we had to complete a placement year, and I had chosen to volunteer at HART Wildlife Hospital in Medstead, Hampshire. I got into the car that morning, having said ‘goodbye’ to my sister, and set off for work. I was on the A31, near Alton, when my accident took place, but I remember nothing of the journey leading up to the accident. The last thing I remember is saying ‘goodbye’ to my sister.
From the skids on the road, and the damage to my car, the police believe that my tyre burst, causing the car to flip or twist on to the other side of the dual carriageway. A car on the other side of the road crashed into me, as the driver was not expecting me to be there – thankfully, no one was seriously hurt. I have no recollection of how I was feeling at the time but I can imagine that I was very scared and in a lot of pain.
I’m told that a man driving a lorry rang for an ambulance – I don’t know his name but I’m very thankful for what he did. The Air Ambulance landed in a field next to the dual carriageway and I was taken to Southampton General Hospital.
I don’t remember any of the journey in the Air Ambulance, or any of the team who looked after me, which is a shame as I am very grateful and thankful for what they did for me. Sometimes I feel that ‘thank you’ is not enough – they are my real life heroes.
My injuries were serious – I had a shattered pelvis, a fractured disc in my back, a punctured lung, a bang to the head, a ruptured spleen and many other cuts and bruises. I was also bleeding internally. Without the quick response of the Air Ambulance, I’m not sure what would have happened.
My recovery felt slow at first as I was in hospital for nearly four weeks, but once I got home I became stronger as I pushed myself to practice walking a few steps every day with crutches. But I slept downstairs and I spent most of my time in a wheelchair or in bed. Two months later, I was able to walk without crutches, and I was back driving in February – only four months after my accident. I am still not fully recovered as I now suffer with sciatica and I have a lot of numbness around my legs. But I could be a lot worse off and so I live with pain daily, without complaining. I would not have recovered so quickly without all the doctors, surgeons, nurses and physios who have helped me.
Before I had my accident, most of my friends and family and I had no idea that the Air Ambulance was a charity and it shocked us when we found out. My Auntie recently got married and bought everyone an Air Ambulance pin, and my sister is going to do the same in June to raise awareness for the amazing job that the charity do. My Mum and Dad also play your weekly Lottery, as they are so grateful to the team that helped me – they believe that, without the Air Ambulance, they might not have me here now.
Being faced with death has changed my outlook on life. I now know that I am not invincible, and that life can change in an instant. But my accident has taught me that I am stronger than I thought I was – if anyone had told me that I would be ok after what happened to me, I would never have believed them. I now appreciate everything in life, and I’ve learned to forgive and forget, as life is too short. The scars I have on my body remind me how lucky I am daily.