It was a busy Saturday morning on 6th July 2002, when 35-year-old Marcus Watkin from Shrewsbury was towards the back of a group of ten motorcyclists on their way to Wales.
Whilst travelling down the A483, a car veered across from the opposite side of the road and hit Marcus head on in a 120mph combined crash, throwing him off his bike and onto a grass verge. It happened so quickly, those at the front of the group were initially unaware what had happened.
The scene was chaotic, and land ambulances who had arrived first said he wouldn’t survive unless an air ambulance was called. The Midlands Air Ambulance from RAF Cosford came to scene, and Marcus was airlifted to North Staffordshire Trauma Unit, which was 12 minutes away in flight.
All of Marcus’ injuries were internal. He had a spinal injury which means he is now paralysed from the waist down, a ruptured spleen, an open book fractured pelvis, a broken left arm and right wrist, and broken ribs.
He was rushed into the operating room on arrival at the hospital, where his pelvis was pinned in place externally with a metal cage, as well having his right arm fused to prevent further damage, and metal pins and plates put in his left arm and right wrist respectfully. Marcus suffered two cardiac arrests and 18 units of blood were used during the surgery.
Marcus was unaware of this traumatic event, until he was woken from a coma six weeks later. He says, “I knew it must have been serious, as I woke up to see my sister, who lives in America.”
He was initially in the Intensive Treatment Unit for two weeks after waking up, then was moved to an orthopaedic ward for four weeks. Following this, Marcus was transferred to the Midlands Centre for Spinal Injuries in Oswestry, where he stayed for 39 weeks.
Marcus recalls adjusting to his new way of life, noting, “At the time, I lived in a small terraced house with my wife, Ann, and our two sons. It couldn’t accommodate a wheelchair, so as well as travelling from Shrewsbury everyday to see me in Oswestry, she had to look for a new family home.”
Ann managed to find a bungalow, which was then adapted to be suitable for Marcus’ needs. When he came out of hospital, Marcus was able to buy a wheelchair-accessible vehicle and get his independence back, something which was hugely important to him.
“By this point, I’d spent over 12 months having to be looked after in hospital, so to be as independent as possible and be able to drive myself was vitally important to me.”
Marcus is now a full-time wheelchair user, but he hasn’t allowed his injuries to prevent him from leading a full and normal life. He is a voice in the local community for all wheelchair users and in his spare time enjoys fishing and clay pigeon shooting.
Marcus credits Midlands Air Ambulance Charity with saving his life, and decided to show his gratitude by initially donating and supporting at events. He’s now a hugely valued volunteer with years of experience, delivering talks to communities and sharing his incredible story.
“Undoubtedly, Midlands Air Ambulance Charity saved my life. Every second counted in getting me to hospital and into theatre. If I hadn’t been airlifted, I wouldn’t have made it to the hospital alive.”