Monday, 16 June 2014

Survivor reunited with lifesaver

Photo: Dr Wood and Liz James pictured at the Air Ambulance base at Redhill

An East Grinstead mother who broke her neck in a car crash has been reunited with the Sussex Air Ambulance doctor who helped save her life.

School administrator Liz James, 34, was driving back to work after having lunch with her family when she was involved in a head-on collision with a lorry on Wilderwick Road.

She also suffered a badly broken leg and a broken foot and had to be cut free from the wreckage of her car after being trapped for more than an hour.

The helicopter’s doctor and paramedic gave Liz emergency treatment at the road-side before flying her to a major trauma centre.

The mother-of-two has since made a good recovery following the accident in November and recently visited the Air Ambulance base at Redhill to meet Dr Simon Wood for the first time since her accident.

She said: “I was conscious throughout and I just felt so lucky to be alive. I remember thinking that I needed to get back to school and help organise the re-sitting of the GCSE exams but when they got me out of the car I passed out.”

Land paramedics were first on scene before calling in the Air Ambulance due to the severity of Liz’s injuries and it took the helicopter just seven minutes to arrive from the nearby base at Redhill before landing in a field next to the scene.

Dr Wood and Paramedic Richard Crabb then gave her advanced sedation and pain relief at the road-side and effectively put her in an induced coma.

This allowed them to apply traction on her broken leg and re-align the bones without causing further distress. They also immobilised her to protect her spine and packaged her in bubble wrap to preserve her body temperature.

Dr Wood said: “I was particularly concerned that the fracture in the leg was cutting off blood flow to the lower parts of her leg – potentially a limb-threatening injury requiring immediate treatment.

“When I saw Liz at Redhill, she was walking with the aid of a stick but she looked so well and cheerful. It was great to have the time to chat with her, fill in some of the gaps and explain the effects of some of our treatment.

“It gives us the rare opportunity to see the long-term value and impact our work has on the patients we treat.”

Kent, Surrey & Sussex Air Ambulance is not just about saving lives but giving patients the best quality of survival and these early medical interventions helped ensure that Liz was later able to walk again.

The pilots, Captain Pete Driver and First Officer Matt Beake, flew Liz to the Royal Sussex County Hospital at Brighton where scans revealed that she had suffered a fracture of the C2 verterbrae.

She then developed pneumonia and spent 10 days in hospital, five of them in intensive care, before she was finally allowed home.

Liz added: “Seven months on, life already feels back to normal and we want to do what we can to support the Air Ambulance. Without other people’s generosity, the air ambulance would not have been able to help me.”

If you would like to make a donation to the Air Ambulance please call 01622 833833 or go to

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