Three years ago, Simon Edmonds was lying in a hospital bed over Christmas recovering from a brain injury after being knocked off his bike by a hit-and-run drunk driver on Christmas Eve.
The grandfather-of-two was unable to have any visitors due to the Covid-19 pandemic and his only contact was via video call to his family on Christmas Day.
It is thanks to the Wales Air Ambulance that he is here to tell the tale after the crew performed critical care at the roadside before transferring him to hospital.
Simon, 63, had gone out for his daily bike ride at lunchtime on 24 December 2020. He recalls it had been a beautiful day and decided to take advantage of the sunshine after miserable weather had kept him inside on his cross trainer for most of the week.
He was only a few miles away from his Abergavenny home when he was hit from behind and thrown onto the bonnet of the car before hitting his head on the ground.
The driver of the car fled the scene and luckily for Simon there was an off-duty doctor in the queuing traffic behind who came to his aid. The driver was later found by police and prosecuted.
Simon said: “Two helicopters attended me, and my chest was drained at the roadside to get my lung reinflated before I was taken to the University of Wales Hospital.
“Most of my ribs on my left were broken and my lung had collapsed, my collarbone was broken, and I had several fractures in my pelvis. I had a ruptured spleen, torn nerve fibers in the brain, and a bleed on the surface of the brain.
“I was conscious throughout including at the roadside, but I suffered post-traumatic amnesia in which I still do not remember anything that happened from about 20 minutes before my accident to three days later.
“My wife and daughter video-called me on Christmas Day but despite being able to communicate I have no memory of it. I don’t remember anything about Christmas 2020 at all.
“My GPS tracker on my mobile phone had still been running so I was able to piece together where and when it happened. When I was discharged from hospital, I went back on my bike to retrace my steps. I was back on my bike before I could walk as I still suffer from damage to the base of my spine and have nerve damage to my legs which means walking is still problematic, but cycling is better.
“As I had no memory of the accident itself, I had no trauma getting back on the bike I just had an intellectual understanding of what happened.”
Simon, who is a retired software engineer and product designer, spent five weeks in hospital which included his 61st birthday.
He said: “It was going to be a strange Christmas as we were in lockdown. My daughter lives in Canada and my son lives in Bristol and I think the lockdown rules were different in England at the time. I think it was going to be a quiet one, just my wife Freddy and I for Christmas.
“Freddy was on her own for Christmas which must have been difficult for her. When my memory returned three days later, I looked at my phone and saw a message from her from Christmas Eve saying, ‘where are you, are you okay?’ and I replied, ‘No I am in hospital in Cardiff, have you got my bicycle?’ I had already spoken to her, but I didn’t have any recollection of it.
“I can only imagine how traumatic it would have been for my family. I also tested positive for Covid-19 and at that point my wife was convinced she would never see me again.
“I suffered a brain injury, which for a while I denied. It was hard to accept and even when I was in hospital, I got my wife to bring in my laptop and I was working on client’s websites and did the same when I came home.
“I own a digital marketing company and I hadn’t taken a day off since the time I was in hospital to compensate that I couldn’t physically work a full day. By the following Christmas, I was burnt out.
“I have recently retired, and I now plan to create a website for people with brain injuries because the one thing I found difficult was finding sensible, practical information online. I will be working with my rehabilitation team to achieve this.”
Simon said he owes his life to the Wales Air Ambulance and as a ‘thank you’ he took part in the Charity’s My 20 Challenge where he cycled 195 miles in the month on his bike and raised £485.
He said: “I wanted to do something to raise funds for the Wales Air Ambulance and while I had planned to cycle 200 miles, part of my therapy is accepting that numbers are just numbers and to avoid beating myself up about it.”
Wales Air Ambulance is consultant-led, taking hospital-standard treatments to the patient and, if required, transferring them directly to the most appropriate hospital for their illness or injury. For the patient, this can mean hours saved when compared to standard care and is proven to greatly improve survival and early recovery.
This advanced critical care includes the ability to administer anaesthesia, deliver blood transfusions and conduct minor operations, all at the scene of an incident. The Service is often described as a ‘flying emergency department’, however, it can also deliver the same standard of care by road via its fleet of rapid response vehicles.
This 24/7 service is delivered via a unique Third Sector and Public Sector partnership. The Wales Air Ambulance Charity relies on public donations to raise the £11.2 million required every year to keep the helicopters in the air and rapid response vehicles on the road. The Emergency Medical Retrieval and Transfer Service (EMRTS) supplies highly skilled NHS consultants and critical care practitioners who work on board the Charity’s vehicles.
As a pan-Wales service, the dedicated crews will travel the length and breadth of the country to deliver emergency lifesaving care.
Simon said he is hoping to have a relatively quiet Christmas this year before his daughter Emily and his grandchildren travel home to Wales to visit in the New Year.
He said: “Since my accident I am a lot more appreciative of my life and what I do have. I am so grateful for the Wales Air Ambulance. It is a phenomenal service and if it hadn’t been for the Wales Air Ambulance, I wouldn’t be here today.”