David Johnston was helping a friend on a farm in West Chiltington by strapping a load of hay bales on a trailer when he slipped and fell 10ft onto the back of a tractor impaling himself on a blunt metal spike, suffering a penetrating chest injury which narrowly missed his vital organs.
Kent, Surrey & Sussex Air Ambulance was activated due to the severity of David’s injuries. He was in agony, bleeding from his chest and arms and every breath David took was smaller than the last because one of his lungs had collapsed. Pressure was building up in his chest cavity putting strain on his heart so his blood pressure dropped.
South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb) Community First Responder Peter Davis, critical care paramedic Lewis Allam and his colleagues Christian Clarke and Laura Benham were first on scene and found David fighting for breath. They gave him oxygen and pain relief but David’s condition was worsening due to the blood or air being trapped around his lung.
Pilot Mark Howard-Smith landed in the field before his colleagues, Dr John O’Neill, nurse Emily McWhirter and paramedic Charles Leahy gave David further pain relief. They also performed a chest drain to help him with his breathing. This is an advanced medical procedure usually performed only in hospital, but David was deteriorating rapidly and needed urgent surgery that could not wait until he got to hospital.
Dr O’Neill said: “This had an immediate effect as David's blood pressure and oxygen levels returned to normal, and by the time we arrived at hospital he was looking much better, even managing to crack a joke.”
David was airlifted to the Royal Sussex County Hospital major trauma centre in Brighton where he spent the next six days. He has since made an almost full recovery and in September, 2013, he met helicopter crew for the first time since his accident.
David said, “When the air ambulance arrived I thought it must be quite serious but I wasn’t aware of the level of expertise and equipment on board. Now I know that’s what made the difference and I wouldn’t be here today otherwise. I just wanted to say thank you in person.”