On 27 July 2014 whilst racing, keen competitive cyclist Mick Ballantyne was involved in a life threatening crash. He doesn’t remember what happened or why, but he collided at high speed with a trailer being pulled by a steam engine. Initial assessment of Mick’s injuries found that he was critically ill, and the land ambulance first on scene worked hard to keep his airway clear while they awaited the Air Ambulance.
Mick’s wife Lisa was at home in Hereford and travelled to the hospital as soon as she heard the news. One of Mick’s daughter’s, Amy, had just arrived in Scotland for the Commonwealth Games, and as soon as she heard what had happened she got back in her car and headed straight for Cambridge.
The Air Ambulance Crew on Anglia 2 that day were critical care paramedic Gary Spitzer and Dr Tim Lightfoot. When they arrived on scene they saw that Mick had badly damaged his face and torso. The crew sedated and stabilised him before flying him to Addenbrooke’s hospital.
Whilst in intensive care in hospital the doctors discovered a number of injuries, over several days. Mick had multiple facial fractures and facial paralysis, teeth missing, damaged vocal chords, one collapsed lung and one torn lung and a fractured skull. His kidneys also stopped working a few days after the accident.
Mick was in a coma for 2 weeks and paralysed for 4 days whilst relying on a tracheotomy for his breathing and a feeding tube to keep him nourished. The tracheotomy and feeding tube were only removed in December 2014.
On New Years day 2015 I went out on my bike for the first time since the accident, with Lisa.
Mick spent 3 months in hospital before being discharged, this was when the work to build up his strength really began. Initially, he’d had to learn to walk and talk again. As a keen runner for much of his life, and then a cyclist following a knee operation, Mick was told that there were three reasons he had survived; he was fit, healthy and strong. He believes that the speed at which he was treated and taken to hospital also played a huge part in his survival. He also has medical technology to thank; doctors said that even just five years ago the technology was such that he wouldn’t have survived.
Mick suffered from post traumatic amnesia for 6 weeks, has blindness in one eye, some facial nerve damage, but looking at how far he has come, and in the knowledge that it takes roughly 18 months for the brain to fully recover, he has hope that he has more recovering to do.
On New Years day 2015 Mick went out on his bike for the first time since the accident, with his wife Lisa. Lisa finds riding her bike a bit scary since the accident, but Mick was back on his bike as soon as he could be, already riding hundreds of miles a month.
Lisa and Amy completed a duathlon at Castle Combe, for charity, a few months after the accident, and between them the family have raised in excess of £6700 for the East Anglian Air Ambulance in recognition of the life-saving work they performed that day.
Critical care paramedic Gary Spitzer had the pleasure of meeting Mick again, along with his wife Lisa and their daughters Amy and Lauren when they visited the Cambridge base on 11th February 2015. Mick won’t stay off his bike, but he has vowed never to meet the air ambulance crew again on the side of the road.