Air Ambulances UK

Devon Air Ambulance: Caroline’s Story

In February this year, Caroline was enjoying spending time riding her Clydesdale horse, named aptly, Clyde, along with her friend Holly on her horse, Bridget on Aylesbeare Common. Clyde is a purebred Clydesdale and described by Caroline as a ‘gentle giant’ and very placid, despite his 17.3 hands!

As they rode along, Clyde was suddenly spooked by a noise in the hedgerow – it was only a handful of inquisitive wild horses however, Clyde bolted and started to bronc and rear up.  Caroline held on tightly but on the third ‘bronc’ she tried to grab hold of his mane but was thrown off.

Caroline recalled: “As Clyde bolted, I remember shouting out to Holly, ‘Here we go again, this is going to hurt!’  and within seconds I fell on to the rough track with big stones and rubble underneath me.”

Caroline felt immediate pain in her hip on the right side as her body hit the ground.  Her shoulder was also hurting badly.  Meanwhile, Clyde had bolted off across the common and Caroline’s friend Holly was shouting for help as she held onto her horse amid all the commotion. Thankfully Clyde came strolling back to the scene of the incident by himself leaving poor Holly needing to hold on to two horses!

Luckily, a couple of nearby walkers were able to help – there was a nurse called Julie who called 999 and another first-aider. When help was on the way, Holly called Caroline’s husband to let him know what had happened.

Our Exeter based helicopter was the first of the emergency services to arrive at the scene. It was already airborne, having been on its way to Plymouth and stood down; it was returning to base when the crew received the report of Caroline’s fall.

Caroline explains: “It felt like the helicopter had arrived so quickly, it was literally there within just four or five minutes.  The 999 call handler informed us that the heli was on its way and within seconds we heard it overhead, the NHS land ambulance arrived not long afterwards.

As she heard the helicopter landing, Caroline knew that help was coming but also thought that she must have done something pretty serious for Devon Air Ambulance to be attending.  Her fingers were beginning to feel numb and tingly and that’s when she started to cry due to the overwhelming sense of relief:

“The crew that attended me were Specialist Paramedic Cat McMorrow, Dr Lauren Weekes and Pilot Richard Applegarth, they were all amazing!  Ironically, I found out later that Cat was also airlifted by the air ambulance 15 years ago after a similar fall from her horse and suffering arm and shoulder injuries!  She was therefore experienced in the pitfalls of riding and also understood how to handle our horses too.  The crew were brilliant from the moment they arrived to the treatment I received and throughout my helicopter ride they even covered my eyes from the glaring sun as I lay on the stretcher.”

Specialist Paramedic in Critical Care, Cat, explained that whilst on scene, she could hear the sound of thundering hooves in the background as the wild horses were particularly curious of the helicopter and weren’t spooked by it at all!  In fact at one point whilst Cat was on the phone to the hospital to inform them of their imminent arrival, she saw them attempting to take a nibble out of the helicopter.

After being stabilised on scene, Caroline was airlifted to the Royal Devon & Exeter hospital where she had X-Rays of her shoulder and chest.  She had fractured her shoulder socket due to its dislocation and had plenty of severe bruising to her hip.

Caroline has full recollection of the incident as she was lucky that her riding helmet protected her head in the fall. She has strict instructions not to ride until at least the end of May and is tentatively looking forward to it:

“I’m not overly nervous about riding again but won’t know until I’m sat in the saddle. This is my third accident whilst riding Clyde in the last 8 years so here’s hoping he behaves himself and stays calm!”Caroline was keen to make sure that everyone knew how grateful she was for the treatment she received and has even started to look at ways in which she can fundraise for us in the future:

I can’t thank the Devon Air Ambulance crew enough. They do a fantastic job and were able to really keep my spirits up while helping me at the scene of the accident and on board the helicopter.   I even got a call a couple of days after the accident from their Patient and Family Support team to see how I was feeling and if I had any questions for them. They really are the best and Devon can’t afford to be without them.

Our local horse shop (Hidden Oak) and café have subsequently offered to help us with some fundraising activities we would like to get involved with too, so watch this space as we’ll be doing something to raise money for them soon. All I can say is that I am grateful to the Devon Air Ambulance supporters who enabled me to receive the care that I did, so please do donate to this wonderful cause if you can.”


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