The Bank Holiday weekend of August 2014 was particularly busy for Air Ambulances in the West County. One of the many jobs attended by Devon’s Exeter aircrew was to mountain bike rider, Lindsey Bousfield, who had gone head-first over her handlebars on a steep descent, deep in woodland in the Quantock Hills.

The first responders arrived from the local fire brigade, along with Hazardous Area Response Team (HART) responder Dave Dungay, who administered immediate first aid. It was clear, however, that Lindsey needed emergency hospital treatment, but even when Devon’s Air Ambulance arrived, the helicopter had to land over a mile away. Paramedics Mark Hawley and Richard Walker ran through the woods to the scene and on assessing the situation realised they would be unable to get the injured patient back the same way they had come.
Lindsey was slipping in and out of consciousness with an obvious head injury and had also suffered a shoulder injury. Speed was definitely of the essence. Mark enlisted the services of another emergency service, that of a Search and Rescue helicopter from Portland. A winchman was lowered through the small space between the trees, safely secured to the stretcher Lyndsay was then winched up to the S&R helicopter and conveyed to Southmead Hospital in Bristol.

Lindsey has no memory of the incident, nor of events for the following five days. On leaving hospital, Lindsey thought that she was ‘completely better’ but, as the days turned into weeks, it became apparent that the swelling in her brain would take some time to heal. “It was only as time went on that I realised the enormity of what had happened and just how many bits were missing!” Lindsey explained. “Visitors would come and go and I had no memory of our conversations. I had to learn how to be patient – something I’m really not very good at – and I now know that my concussion lasted at least three weeks. I couldn’t believe that I had TWO helicopters to attend the accident – that’s a really big thing to get my head around. As well as my head injury, I had torn the ligaments in my shoulder so needed physiotherapy and, some weeks later, I discussed my accident with a counsellor. I can now see that my recovery was a long way from complete when I first left hospital but things are definitely better now and there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

Speaking to Helipad’s Editor, aircrew paramedic Mark Hawley described the incident as ‘challenging’. “There were several unusual elements to this job. It’s rare for our own helicopter not to be able to get nearer to a patient but Lindsey was tucked right in thick woodland so our pilot, Rob, had to wait with our aircraft while Richard and I ran to the scene. Reaching her, however, we could see that there was a small break overhead that would be just about okay for the Search & Rescue crew to lower a winchman. Fortunately, he was also a paramedic so Lindsey was in very good hands. It was a great example of various emergency teams all working together for the benefit of the patient.”

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