Mary Seldon, Herefordshire fundraising executive for Midlands Air Ambulance Charity, has had first-hand experience of the critical care skills and medical intervention provided by the charity’s lifesaving aircrews, after falling whilst on a rural walk with her husband, Alan, and their two spaniels.
On Wednesday 29th July 2020, during a summer evening walk at the Bury Ditches Iron Age hillfort in Shropshire, Mary and Alan were enjoying the peaceful tranquillity of the remote walking route, after having chosen one of their favourite paths of the many situated around the fort.
On this occasion, they chose not to use the extremely steep path down from the rim, but instead took a much gentler path down to the middle of the fort. In a moment, Mary’s walking boots had slipped on the gravel and a larger stone turned over her foot, causing her to fall.
Mary recalls, “I knew immediately I had done something reasonably bad to my ankle, because as I tried to get up, I realised that there was no way I was going to get any further.”
Mary’s right ankle and foot were extremely swollen, hinting at the serious damage underneath.
Alan phoned 999 using What3Words, which allows the emergency services to locate someone within a three-metre squared patch, when a postcode won’t be sufficient. He then took their dogs back to the car so that he could meet the land ambulance and bring the paramedics back up to Mary.
“He wrapped his florescent raincoat around me so that I could be spotted in the undergrowth!”
A land ambulance crew and fire brigade arrived initially on scene, but due to the remote location of Mary’s accident with such limited accessibility, it was decided that it would be safer for everyone to call the air ambulance based at Strensham. This also prevented the need to drive Mary to Shrewsbury, which could have risked exacerbating the injury.
Mary reflects on hearing the arrival of the aircrew, “I have never been so pleased in all my life to hear the familiar sound of an EC135! I knew that they would find somewhere to land, and I would be in safe hands. Their skill at making me comfortable and the speed of transition to hospital made me realise how lucky I was to be airlifted.”
Mary was taken to Shrewsbury A&E, where she was assessed. It was discovered that she had completely shattered her right ankle and torn all the ligaments, and Mary was told she would never walk without pain or a limp again.
The doctors attempted to move all the bones back into the right places and then put on a plaster cast. Due to Covid-19, Mary was sent home that evening, and an appointment was made for her to go to The Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital in Oswestry two days later.
A week after this assessment, Mary returned so that the doctors could have a second attempt at moving everything back into place. Under anaesthetic, they found that none of the bones would move, so performed a three-hour operation to put in place screws on one side and a metal plate on the other, holding all the bones – this is called an open reduction internal fixation. Mary had to stay in hospital for 24 hours and then was allowed home, but was not allowed to weight bear for the next seven weeks. An aircast boot was fitted and she gradually learnt to put weight on the ankle.
“My first question when I came around was whether I would be able to wear my beloved Doc Martens again, and thankfully I was reassured I would.”
As her movement was so restricted, Mary and Alan had to stay at their static caravan in Wales, as their home in Herefordshire is full of stone steps on the outside and steep Victorian stairs on the inside.
“Thankfully, I had Alan with me most of the time, as initially I couldn’t do much for myself,” reflects Mary. “It has taken me a good ten months to be able to start walking our two dogs again, and I still struggle on a rugged country walk. I also used to love to stand and cook for hours – again, this has not been possible.”
And Mary’s verdict on her first-hand experience of the charity she works for?
“I love Midlands Air Ambulance Charity! I did before, but now I fully appreciate their skill and expertise. I can’t thank the crew enough for their extraordinary care, skill and commitment to helping me that night.”