How teamwork and what3words helped save my life.
Hi everyone, my name is Keith and I’d like to share with you my story.
Ever since I was young I’ve been a bit of an petrol head, always finding ways to get the best out of me and the machine. At the age of 15 I got my first motorbike and from that moment I was hooked on the freedom and enjoyment that I got every time I went out, either on the road or green lanes.
A reality of this hobby however is the inevitability that one-day you may get seriously injured, or worse. Throughout my 59 years I’ve had a couple incidents, however it was on one April morning that I had an accident serious enough to require the help of East Anglian Air Ambulance (EAAA).
Keith on his motorbike.
Riding in Thetford Forest with my mates is one of my favourite ways to spend a weekend, riding through the trees and navigating the rough terrain on the byways open to all traffic. As we came round to a certain section of the route not far from Brandon, I got something wrong…
The ground was sandy and made up of a series of small mounds we call whoops, if you get it right you can skip from one to another, I didn’t get it right and lost control of the bike, which through me up and off to the left, my left hand was the first thing to hit the ground as I tried to save myself and I stopped very quickly.
I remember directly after the impact I was winded and could not breath, my mates were following close behind and upon seeing the accident didn’t think I was seriously hurt.
One of the mates I was riding with explained what he thought:
“I was following close behind Keith and I knew when I saw him facedown down that something wasn’t right, I remember saying something like woah, easy tiger! I think initially we just thought it was an unfortunate accident and if anything, Keith would have been a bit sore come Monday morning.”
The guys helped me to take off my backpack and then one of them accidently knelt on me and I thought I’m not comfortable here and somehow got up on my own and walked over to a tree where I propped myself up, it was at that moment that we all realised this was something serious and I needed help, quickly and I remember saying to my mate Shaun ‘I need an ambulance this is not good’.
Keith and his friends visiting Anglia two and the crew that attended him.
Being stuck in the middle of the forest was not an ideal situation but suddenly two police officers in an off-road truck came round the corner. Having called for help we used the app What 3 Words to pinpoint our exact location for the emergency services, the app assigns three unique words to every 3x3 meter square which made it easy to find where we were. Without the use of W3W we would have really struggled to let the emergency services know where we were and the rescue would have taken a lot longer. I do think that if we didn't use the app, I could have had a totally different outcome because of the time it would have taken to locate us.
It was Doctor Abilius Wong and Critical Care Paramedic Andy Bates from EAAA that came to my aid that day.
“Having walked ¼ mile through the forest we came across Keith surrounded by his mates, the EEAST team and two Police officers. Keith was struggling to breathe so we used a portable ultrasound monitor to get a better view of what was going on. We found a build-up of air that had escaped from his lung as well as several rib fractures and a fracture to his collarbone and shoulder. We administered advanced pain relief and made the decision to insert a drain into Keith’s lungs to clear some of the air, which had started to collapse his lung, with the hope that this would help improve his breathing.”
Critical Care Paramedic
Having treated me as much as possible at the accident scene the team’s minds turned to how they were going to get me to the helicopter. The ambulance had made its way reasonably close to the scene but getting back down the track would have meant over a mile of walking pace reversing over the sandy and bumpy terrain. It was then that the decision was made to load me into the back of the Police 4x4 Ford Pickup Truck which was built for the forest and would allow a quicker extraction.
I was then flown to Addenbrooke’s where I went straight into NICU and was for 4 days and then another 7 days on the ward, I suffered nine fractures in my ribs where my own elbow came back and hit on lading as well as fractures to my collarbone and shoulder I punctured my left lung and damaged my spleen, as well as a crash helmet I was wearing full body armour, knee braces and MX boots, so I couldn’t have had any better protection on. I will always wear the best protection, and I do not want to think about what might have happen if I hadn’t.
Keith and CCP Andy.
I’ve recently had the pleasure of visiting the EAAA base at Cambridge and meeting Abilius and Andy once again, in a much better state! Taking my mates along was a great comfort for us all and we were able to find out a little bit more about the difference they made that day and some of the decisions that were made. I have since become good friends with Andy who has recently passed his motorcycle test and now he comes out riding with us…on the road!
We also got to speak with Lisa Boyle, who is an Aftercare Nurse with the charity – I am so grateful to her for all of the support offered and arranging the visit to meet all of the outstanding people.
Many people have asked if my accident has put me off riding…the answer is a resounding, no! We all understand the risks of what we do but for me the rewards outweigh this greatly, I don’t know what I’d do without it. I am so grateful for all of those who supported me on that day and throughout my recovery which have meant that I can still go out and do the things I love, I’m very much aware that not everyone has this chance.