This article was written by Catherine Scott and it orginally appeared in the Yorkshire Post on 24th October 2013.
Sarah Wise is lucky to be alive. The driver of the sports car she was in lost control and ploughed into some parked cars. Sarah, whose side took the brunt of the impact, was trapped. She had suffered multiple injuries including a head injury which means she remembers nothing of the accident or her dramatic rescue which was all captured on film for TV’s Helicopter Heroes.
“I remember getting into the car. It was only our second date and we were going shopping to York,” recalls Sarah of Cross Gates, Leeds. “We very nearly didn’t go in his TVR sports car. We nearly went in mine. If we had it wouldn’t have happened.
“I don’t know exactly what happened, but we were just approaching the A64 outside Tadcaster and he lost control of the car and crashed into some parked cars. My side of the car took most of the impact. It is really hard to piece together what happened after the accident.
“I don’t remember anything from the accident itself due to a traumatic brain injury. The hospital said the memories aren’t there to remember.”
The only way Sarah knows what happened to her was the BBC footage shot during her rescue.
“Watching the footage back shows how fantastic the Yorkshire Air Ambulance crew were – they knew almost immediately that they were dealing with a broken pelvis, but didn’t know how much internal damage and bleeding there was and wanted to get me to hospital as quickly as possible. They asked me to rate the pain on a scale of one to 10: all you can hear is me screaming 10 and, at one point, 12.
“To be honest, I hardly recognise myself. I used to watch the series and feel sorry for the accident victims, but you don’t really think about them as real people, or that it would happen to me.
“Yet there I am, covered in blood and bruises, still trapped in the car and in excruciating pain.”
Sarah’s father still can’t bring himself to watch his daughter being rescued from the mangled wreckage of the high-performance car.
Sarah knows she is lucky to be alive, although her life will never be the same as it was before the accident.
She suffered breaks to her pelvis, skull, jaw, cheekbone, fingers and ribs; a ruptured spleen and punctured lung. She was in intensive care and a high dependency unit at Leeds General Infirmary for more than a month, followed by bedbound care at home and three months in a wheelchair, then walking with a zimmer frame.
Almost five years later, she still has constant pain, particularly in her back. She cannot stand for long periods of time, needs regular physiotherapy, sports massage and acupuncture and suffers severe headaches, tinnitus, memory loss and cognitive difficulties.
“ The doctors and nurses at LGI were fantastic and my dad and his wife were absolutely brilliant looking after me at home, but my memories are blurred. I just know there were lots of operations, hospital and doctor visits and intensely painful physiotherapy sessions to get me walking again.”
The x-ray of Sarah’s pelvis shows just how shattered it was.
Amazingly since the accident she has gone on to have a baby.
“I had to have a caesarean because of the state of my pelvis.”
One-year-old Billy is the centre of Sarah’s world but, as she is unable to work due to her injuries, she was worried how she was going to provide for her son. She went back to work at a bank just five months after the accident, but it didn’t work out.
“The first time the issue of compensation came up was a throwaway comment from one of my friends visiting me in hospital and trying to cheer me up. She said, at least I could look forward to a good payout – with these injuries I bet it would be about £10,000.
“Anyone who has been severely injured in an accident will tell you the same. It really isn’t the first thing you think about. You read that we’re supposed to be turning into a so-called compensation culture, claiming whiplash for the slightest bump, but when you’ve been involved in a serious accident, you’re just happy that you’ve survived and all you’re thinking about is getting better.”
Leeds-based personal injury solicitors Emsleys were recommended by a friend and partner Andrew Greenwood handled Sarah’s accident claim. A six-figure settlement has finally been awarded this year.
Sarah said: “For the first time since the accident I can start to see a real future again. I wasn’t sure with all the injuries and operations, that I would be able to successfully carry a baby, but I now have my one-year-old son, Billy to take care of – my little miracle.
“I can buy a house and have some security. I used to work in corporate banking, but I have to think in terms of a job where I won’t be sitting down for long periods of time. There’s a long gap in my CV of course and you have to explain to potential employers why that is and that you need the flexibility to go for regular physiotherapy and rehabilitation.
“I would really like to support other people who are going through what I went through and I’ve now got the confidence to explore university courses in sports therapy and rehabilitation, with a view to finding a job in that area.
“Billy will be able to start nursery, two days a week, which I know he’ll enjoy, because he loves playing with friends and finding new toys. The settlement means I don’t have to worry about that cost.
“One of the things you soon realise is that the money isn’t like a lottery win. It’s about replacing the security you used to have, the things you used to take for granted.
“For me it’s about planning for me and Billy and giving me the chance to find a new way of supporting him for his future.”
Yorkshire Air Ambulance is an independent charity providing a life-saving rapid response emergency service to five million people across Yorkshire.
Its helicopters fly seven days a week, 365 days a year, covering a vast landscape that includes major cities and motorways, but also rural and isolated locations. The charity needs to raise £9,990 a day to keep both its aircraft maintained and in the air.
Emsleys launched Review My Claim earlier this year, providing free, independent advice on people’s claims. The service donates £10 to Yorkshire Air Ambulance for every case it takes on.
If you or someone you know have had an accident, you could be entitled to compensation. For more information contact our Personal Injury team on 0113 232 1030 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are unhappy with an injury claim in progress or unhappy with the compensation you have already received, visit www.reviewmyclaim.co.uk.
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