When G7 came to Cornwall in 2021, 10-year-old Ruan Strongman couldn’t wait to see the iconic convoys of security following world leaders around the Duchy. After waiting – and missing – the action, though, things took a turn when he was hit by a pick-up.
It’s a day that dad James remembers clearly; the day of the Eden Project visit, where political leaders – and the Queen – would meet for a VIP reception dinner.
Elsewhere, though, brothers Ruan and Ben (8) were skipping along the grass verge of a quiet lane, on their way home from trying to spot the motorcade from a bridge over the A30.
But with Ben skipping 20m ahead, Ruan decided to jump out into the road to catch him up – a split second where his dad didn’t even have the chance to shout ‘stop’.
“There was no time to shout or do anything,” James recalls. “One minute, Ruan was skipping, and the next second, he got hit by the pick-up. He’d jumped into it.”
The family couldn’t hear the vehicle coming because of the sound of the A30, and the car wouldn’t have seen them until the last minute.
“He was so relaxed, he just jumped into it. It hit him in the side and on his back. His head hit the front of the pick-up and he was thrown across the road, where he hit his head again on the grass verge.”
On reaching Ruan, James realised he wasn’t breathing. Ben bravely ran home (just a short distance away) with dog Tiggy to grab their mum.
Meanwhile, a neighbour, a retired nurse who happened to be passing on her way to dinner, was able to jump into action and start the CPR with the help of an ambulance call handler.
“Because of the day it was, so many services arrived so quickly. There were loads of ambulances lining the A30, so we had the normal ambulance arrived first, and then the Critical Care paramedics from Cornwall Air Ambulance turned up – two crews because of a shift changeover.
“His pulse wasn’t good, so they had to put a shunt in his leg to administer the drugs. Then he started moving but he wasn’t really conscious; he was making noises, which was good, but he couldn’t understand anything anyone said.”
The paramedics were concerned about Ruan’s head injuries. He was put under anaesthetic so they could take control of his breathing. Due to bad weather, they escorted him to Newquay Airport where he was then flown by the Coastguard Search and Rescue helicopter to Bristol Children’s Hospital with the CAAT team aboard.
“The first bit was the worst bit. Once all the team are there, you feel like you are in safe hands.”
For mum Lucy, though, she said it was the helicopter journey when reality really started to hit, as James was left behind to care for Ben.
“Being on my own in there, with Ruan strapped in the back, unconscious and not knowing what we were going to find when we got to hospital – that’s when I started crying really.
“By that point I had held it all together.”
Fortunately, Ruan’s injuries were not as extensive as first feared – though, still quite serious with three broken ribs, a severe concussion and major bruising. After a stint in intensive care and a total of five days in hospital, he was able to go home.
Six months later, he was officially discharged from hospital and able to play sports again.
“The service we had is just invaluable really, amazing,” said Lucy.
“Everybody was amazing who was there, all the teams – we just felt completely in safe hands.
“If his head had hit the road, it would have been a lot worse.”