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Cheryl Roper

It was the call no one wants to receive, ‘your daughter has been in a car accident, and we don’t think she has long’.

Margaret Elson’s daughter, Cheryl Roper, was involved in a head on collision whilst driving home from work in October 2012, a journey she never completed. It was raining heavily, and a car travelling on the other side of the road came across the carriageway, narrowly missing the car in front of Cheryl, before hitting hers head on. Later, it was found the car that caused the collision had four defective tyres.

“I only remember seeing the car in front of me swerve, then it all went blank,” recalls Cheryl. The impact sent the brake pedal through Cheryl’s right foot, breaking several bones and badly dislocating it in the process. She also suffered a broken hip, broken ribs (which led to a punctured lung), broken shoulder, three breaks to her lower back, and more to her to her neck. The force of the crash also shook Cheryl, which caused eight bleeds on her brain.

Given the severity of the situation, the first land ambulance on scene called for an air ambulance, while the Police coordinated the scene. As the incident took place in Willington, just outside Derby, local air ambulance, the Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Rutland Air Ambulance was initially called to the scene. It quickly became apparent that Cheryl’s condition was life threatening and to stabilise her, she needed to be put into an induced coma before being transferred to hospital.

Only a doctor can perform this level of sedation, so on route back to the RAF Cosford airbase from a previous air ambulance mission, our helicopter with Doctor Ravi Chauhan on board, was called in to support on scene. While each of the 21 UK air ambulances fundraises within its own regional operating area, patient care is borderless and on occasion two differing air ambulances will come together to support at one incident scene.

Dr Ravi and critical care paramedic, Stef Cormack, undertook the sedation process, with support from the remaining land and air ambulance crew members. This enabled the aircrew to package her for the flight and Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Rutland Air Ambulance flew Cheryl to Nottingham Queen’s Medical Trauma Centre.

There, she spent two weeks in an induced coma and on life support before being transferred to the intensive care unit at Derby Royal Hospital. Cheryl spent a total of six weeks in hospital, receiving surgery and painstaking rehabilitation. Cheryl had to battle learning to walk again and due to her brain injuries, she also had to learn to speak again.

She says: “That day was life changing, both physically and mentally. I am still recovering from my injuries. It’s hard and painful, but I have the willpower to do it. Finding out two air ambulances came to my rescue and that I wasn’t even expected to survive the journey to hospital was shocking and confirmed just how severe the crash was.

"If it wasn’t for the emergency services on scene, and the sedation given by the expert Midlands Air Ambulance Charity aircrew, I know I wouldn’t be here today. I count myself lucky, I was given a second chance at life, and I am determined to make the most of it.”

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