Dad-to-be says Wales Air Ambulance helped save his life as service marks 21st birthday

  • Video report by West Wales reporter Jess Main

A man left with life-changing injuries after a horrific crash has shared his story of how the Wales Air Ambulance helped save him - as the charity marks its 21st birthday on St David's Day.

Richard Jones, 32, was travelling along the A40 in Carmarthenshire in February 2020 when he hit a crash barrier, which flung his Toyota Hilux pick-up in the air and into a large sign and poles.

Members of the public, including an ex-army medic, rushed to help him before the Wales Air Ambulance arrived at the scene.

Working at the roadside, Air Ambulance medics put Richard on a ventilator and gave him six units of blood and a general anaesthetic, before he was taken to the nearest specialist centre for limb injuries.

Richard said: “One of the main flashbacks I have is being on the floor, not really knowing what’s happened but a guy in a red suit standing over me.

"I have been told that this was one of the crew from Wales Air Ambulance."

Richard spent days in intensive care and underwent a partial amputation of his right leg at Morriston Hospital in Swansea.

“I’ve always heard stories and read online about all the amazing things the Wales Air Ambulance did," he added.

"However, I never really thought about the service before and never thought I’d end up needing their assistance.”

The charity is marking its 21st birthday today (Tuesday). Credit: Wales Air Ambulance

Wales Air Ambulance Charity has carried out more than 41,000 missions to date since its launch on St David’s Day 2001.

Jo Yeoman is a patient liaison nurse who works in partnership with the charity.

She said: “We are delighted to see that Richard is adapting to life with his prosthetic limb. His story demonstrates the importance of the Wales Air Ambulance bringing the emergency department to the patient.

"Our medics were able to give Richard six units of blood, a general anaesthetic and put him onto a ventilator, all at the roadside, which ensured that Richard had the best possible care before reaching the specialists at Morriston Hospital."

On the day that the Wales Air Ambulance Charity marks its 21st birthday, a report has revealed that seriously injured trauma patients assisted by the service have a significantly increased chance of survival.

The report examined the 9,952 missions attended by the service between 2015 and 2020.

Its findings showed that there is a significant 37% reduction in deaths within 30 days amongst patients who received the emergency department-standard care provided by the service’s medics at the scene of an incident.

The service has also seen a 41% reduction in secondary transfers for patients - exceeding its original target of 30%. A secondary transfer is when an emergency patient is taken to a healthcare facility, usually the nearest to the incident, but then requires a transfer to another hospital that can offer them the specialist care that they need. 

The research also revealed that 63% (6,018) of patients received advanced lifesaving treatments. This included 313 people who required a blood transfusion and 790 people who received anaesthesia.

The charity has carried out more than 41,000 missions since its launch on St David’s Day 2001. Credit: PA Images

Dr Sue Barnes, Wales Air Ambulance Charity chief executive, said: “In the two decades since the launch of the Wales Air Ambulance Charity on this day in 2001, we have evolved into a vital critical care operation.

“Our ability to do this is thanks to our dedicated charity, medical and aviation teams, however, it would not be possible without the incredible support from the people of Wales. It is because of their generosity that we have one of the most advanced air ambulance operations in the world and there are no words to convey our thanks.

“The key for us now is to ensure that as many people as possible in Wales can benefit from our lifesaving care. With our medical partners, we continually monitor and evaluate our mission data and areas of unmet need to identify any service improvements that can be made.”

Richard is still adapting to life with a prosthetic leg. Credit: Wales Air Ambulance

Meanwhile, a determined Richard is now walking with two walking sticks on a prosthetic limb and is hoping to return to work in the building trade when he is fit enough.

He and his partner Michaela - whom he met on a hospital ward when she was selling cakes for charity - are also expecting their first child together.

"There have been many ups and downs," he said.

"Two years on I'm still experiencing pain but I'm hoping I won't need another operation. Physically, I'm doing well. Mentally, I have the odd day when everything gets on top of me, when I'm a bit down in the dumps.

"Before the accident I was 100 miles per hour - now I'm getting used to the new way of life.

"I'm still adapting to life with one leg and coming across new obstacles every day. It is due to my family, friends and hobbies that I have kept positive and continuing my journey to recovery."