Gillian Allen was out cycling with her husband on the August bank holiday in 2015 when she was involved in a collision which changed her life.
They were heading towards home along a back lane in rural Cornwall when everything suddenly went black for Gillian. All she can remember is the presence of a silver car.
Gillian was found unconscious in the road by passing drivers. Her husband Steve, although close by, couldn’t see her due to hedgerows and the commotion alerted him to what had happened.
Steve said: “I found a group of people around Gillian, she was lying in road unconscious, blood everywhere. Everybody turned up, police, the land ambulance, the fire service and Cornwall Air Ambulance. The helicopter landed in the car park near the village hall. People in their houses came out to help too.”
The Cornwall Air Ambulance specialist paramedics treated Gillian and airlifted her to Derriford Hospital, the major trauma centre in Plymouth. She had suffered a severe head injury and bleeding on the brain. Gillian underwent emergency brain surgery to relieve the severe cranial bleeding.
“The doctor said they’d managed to stabilise her, but the next few hours would be critical”, said Steve. “It was just a case of waiting; she had a craniotomy and was in the intensive care unit at Derriford. The next few days were critical to if she’d come through or not, or what she would be like if she did come through. It was dreadful, just dreadful.”
Gillian’s life was in the balance for several days. Steve kept talking to his wife at her bedside, and after a week and a half she managed to squeeze his hand. The next time the medical team tried to bring her out of the sedation she came through.
Having regained consciousness after a week and a half, Gillian has slowly but surely made a near full recovery. She spent just over a month in hospital in total, at both Derriford and the West Cornwall, followed by months of rehabilitation. To this day she still suffers from some memory loss and doesn’t remember what happened the day of her incident.
Gillian said: “Recovery has been tough. My emotions have been all over the place, I do gig rowing for my wellbeing and mental health. I lost my driving licence and my job as a bus driver, but I work for a funeral director now. I do experience a bit of memory loss and it is tough sometimes, but I’m alright.”
Seven years on, it still isn’t known what exactly caused Gillian’s cycling incident.
Steve said: “It was a real feeling of relief when the air ambulance arrived that day, all the emergency services responded so quickly, especially for a bank holiday. They were there within minutes, all of them, but the fact the air ambulance came, and she was able to be airlifted so quickly, I’m sure that had a major impact on the outcome.
“Wear your cycle helmet if you’re going cycling. The one time we didn’t our helmets, I don’t know what possessed us not to wear helmets that day. But it’s a long way down if you hit your head on the tarmac.”
Gillian added: “I believe I am only here today thanks to the quick reactions of the emergency services but especially the Cornwall Air Ambulance team and the brilliance of the medical team at Derriford Hospital. I am proud to say that my name is on the new Cornwall Air Ambulance after I helped to sponsor it.
“It’s a wow factor to know I was airlifted in the helicopter. I don’t think I would be here if it wasn’t for them. It really is an important service. I’d just say thank you so much to the crew and give them a big hug!”
You can support the lifesaving work of Cornwall Air Ambulance, so we can help more patients like Gillian, here: Donate – Cornwall Air Ambulance (cornwallairambulancetrust.org)