On 5th January 2022, Paul found himself driving through Buscot on his way to work in Faringdon. His day took an unexpected turn when he noticed a car, half in a ditch, with a visibly shaken female driver.
As a member of his local Search and Rescue team, Paul’s instinct to help kicked in immediately. Without hesitation, Paul parked his car across the road and went to assist.
He vividly recalls standing on the roadside, waving at approaching vehicles to slow down. While one car heeded the warning, another failed to brake in time, causing a collision that left Paul pinned between the two vehicles. The impact trapped his right leg between the cars and his left leg in the ditch, hanging him upside down.
‘I realised very quickly that I was in a lot of trouble. My left leg was broken, and I couldn’t feel my right leg.‘Paul, former patient
‘I called out for help, and fortunately, more vehicles stopped. A kind man supported my weight with his knee, while someone else placed a toolbox under my hands for support. All I could see were the boots of those who tried to help.’ The situation quickly escalated, and emergency services, including Thames Valley Air Ambulance, arrived on the scene. As Paul lay in pain, he heard our approaching helicopter, which brought with it a glimmer of hope.
After being assessed by our critical care team Paul required advanced painkilling drugs to manage his devastating injuries. Due to the perilous position Paul was trapped in he required careful extrication before he could be taken to hospital. Throughout the ordeal, his thoughts raced. He confided, ‘I remember saying to someone: I think I’m going to lose my leg.’ I was shocked by the reality of what was happening. The possibility of a future without my leg was overwhelming. I focused on managing one moment at a time.’
At the John Radcliffe Hospital, Paul was rushed into surgery, where his right leg was amputated.
Paul’s hospital stay extended for slightly over three weeks, and he returned home on 29th January . The transition proved challenging as he grappled with the emotional and physical aftermath of the accident. The prospect of relying on his family for support weighed heavily on his mind. ‘I felt I had lost my identity as well as my leg’ he explains.
Before the accident, Paul had been an active member of Search and Rescue and a Scout leader, relishing outdoor activities such as kayaking, climbing, and archery. Returning home in a wheelchair presented an immense challenge in visualising the shape his life would take.
His 13-year-old twins and his wife, Helen, made efforts to maintain a sense of normalcy by following through with pre-planned events, such as celebrating Helen’s birthday in February and visiting Lindisfarne to see the puffins during Easter. Yet, Paul grappled with profound changes to his self-identity.
He admitted, ‘I grieved for who I used to be. When something like this happens, you feel the ‘old you’ being stripped away. In many ways, it’s worse than the actual injury itself. I didn’t feel like a parent; I felt like a child in front of my own children.’
Paul’s journey to recovery faced further delays due to a biomechanical failure in the plate and screws used to repair his left leg. While he underwent physiotherapy in preparation for a prosthetic, his progress was hindered until his left leg healed properly. During this period, the Aftercare team from Thames Valley Air Ambulance provided invaluable support to Paul and his family.
He spoke of his connection with the team, saying, ‘I felt invited into the fold. I was part of something bigger. Thames Valley Air Ambulance became the people who not only picked me up off the road but also continued to check in with me once I was home. Lorraine, from Thames Valley Air Ambulance Aftercare team, would be in contact, and it felt like catching up with an old friend. Like someone was keeping an eye on me.’
Paul’s recovery remains an ongoing process fraught with challenges. However, he is resolute in his determination to create the best possible life for himself and his family. Despite complications with his left leg that necessitated further surgery in March 2023, over a year after the incident, Paul eventually received a prosthetic leg that allowed him to resume his active lifestyle.
‘I’m an outdoor person who spent nearly a year indoors. Now I can finally go for a walk. My goal is to keep going further. When I put my new leg on, I felt ten feet tall. I felt I could look the world in the eye.’
In August, Paul and his family travelled to Cornwall, where he kayaked with his twins for the first time since the accident. Next year they plan to go to Belize on the trip of a lifetime.
Paul received a commendation from Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service for stopping to help the driver in distress that day. Motivated to give back, he is now exploring ways to assist people in situations similar to his own.
I want to find the best outcome from the worst event in my life.Paul, former patient.
Paul expressed his gratitude for the support he received from the Aftercare team and Thames Valley Air Ambulance crew, saying, ‘None of us think this will happen to us. We put money in a tin and forget about it. But, if you ever need the support of Thames Valley Air Ambulance, they will be there for you. Without the charity, I would probably be dead. But without public support, the charity couldn’t exist. I don’t really know how I can thank them enough.’
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