Out for the day on their pushbikes, friends Ben and Neil suddenly found themselves in an urgent situation. Ben had taken a fall which instantly alarmed Neil, prompting him to phone the emergency services. When the team arrived, they soon realised they required the specialist skills of the Air Ambulance Critical Care Team. Without the quick thinking of his friend Neil, Ben’s story could have been very different. Below, Ben tells his story.
I was cycling with a friend of mine in Chilworth woods, when I attempted a jump that I maybe should have attempted as a 16-year-old boy and not a middle-aged man. I flew through the air and only really recall landing on my collar bone. I had a tension pneumothorax and was in a great deal of pain, struggling to breathe. My friend Neil, called an ambulance instantly, as he could tell something was seriously wrong.
Due to the location, Neil had to leave me and go off to find the paramedics. When they came to me, Neil said they immediately requested a doctor to attend. They were superb (I wrote a thank you letter to them!); if they hadn’t diagnosed the condition quickly enough, I am aware that I may not be here today. There were a number of emergency services involved: multiple ambulances, doctors, the helicopter and the Hazardous Area Response Team (HART). A passing cyclist was asked by the paramedics to cycle to the other side of the woods to get an oxygen cylinder, as mine was running out and it was quicker for the cyclist than on foot.
Over the next hour or so, I had lots of medication, including ketamine, as the Doctor had to put in a chest drain. Due to my condition and location, they then made the call to request the Air Ambulance. One of the bizarre things was being laid on my back and seeing the helicopter hover over the trees as they were trying to locate us. I was in and out of consciousness but recall the feeling of taking off when I eventually got in the helicopter.
Neil said that once they had put in the drain, there was a sense of relief from all the medical professionals. Neil then had to call my wife, which he maintains to this day was a very interesting experience! She and my mum were advised to go to the University Hospital Southampton, where they both watched me being brought down from the landing pad into the Emergency Department. My mum said it was scary seeing me being brought down. I was wrapped up and had drips attached, and they couldn’t actually see that it was me.
I am so grateful of the medical intervention I received; starting with the quick decisions made, the calming support and the urgency from the Air Ambulance to get me to the Major Trauma Centre. The event means that both my parents and parents-in-law, now regularly donate to Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance due to their crucially valuable service.
I never expected to be using the Air Ambulance, and those who need it rarely do! My only regret is that I couldn’t fully enjoy the experience of a helicopter ride, as I was lying flat and unconscious most of the way.
I spent three days in hospital with a drain in me, had six broken ribs and my collar bone was in four pieces. After six weeks of recovery at home I had to have an operation on my collar bone, and had a metal bar put in to piece it back. I was off work for three months and had to have regular scans and check-ups. It took a long time to be able to do the simple things, such as lying on my back or side, bending over and doing the slightest bits of physical movements.
My friend Neil came to my house after a few days and told me how serious it all was, that was when it really hit home and the emotions kicked in.
Now, when my young nephew sees the Air Ambulance, he always tells me that it is my taxi!