On a bright Sunday afternoon on 20th August 2017, Shaun Attwood (55) was enjoying a leisurely motorbike ride through the Co Down countryside when a tragic accident meant that his onward journey would be by air rather than road. 

After a relaxing day touring on his motorbike in the sunshine, Shaun was making his way back home to Newcastle Co. Down from Newry at approximately 3:45pm. He was aware of the junction on the narrow Bog Road as he’d driven through there many times before, so he slowed down and approached with caution but that wouldn’t prepare him for what was next. Shaun hit a car which had pulled out into his path without warning and was catapulted onto the windscreen then bounced backwards and landed on his back in the middle of the road.

Shaun remained conscious throughout and recalls what happened next. “My initial instinct was to take a deep breath and see where I was. I could move my hands and feet which I knew was a good sign, but the pain was already starting to kick in.

“My helmet stayed intact but I knew not to move my head. I could feel tingling down the left hand side of my face and knew that my back and arm were very badly damaged. “

Within a few minutes a local man, who happened to be a first responder for the Fire Brigade, stopped at the scene and called 999. The police and the fast response vehicle from Newcastle were on the scene very quickly and after an initial assessment, they soon established that the Air Ambulance Northern Ireland (AANI) was necessary to treat Shaun’s trauma.

He sustained extensive injuries including compression of his L3 vertebrae, a badly damaged wrist which was sitting in the wrong direction, a broken right arm in several places and a torn cruciate ligament in his knee. He lives by the motto, dress for the slide, not the ride and had been wearing a one piece protective leather suit, a compression vest and leggings, as well as protective gloves and boots and a sturdy helmet, which left a sizeable dent in the windscreen of the car on impact.

The air ambulance was on the scene in less than 15 minutes, the Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) team Dr Rob Barclay and Paramedic David McCartney were able to provide pre-hospital care at the scene prior to Shaun being airlifted to Belfast.  Dr Barclay said, “Collisions involving motorcyclists always have the potential to be challenging.  When we arrived, Shaun was in significant pain and we were concerned about the potential for serious injury.  Working closely with the ambulance crew, we were able to provide enhanced care and pain relief for Shaun and then transfer him to the regional trauma centre.”

By 8:30am the following morning, Shaun was being prepared for theatre and a lengthy operation which would see him receiving two plates, one pin and a number of screws in his right wrist and arm. He has permanently damaged his vertebrae and may need further surgery on his arm, but in spite of the severity of his injuries, he is making a recovery with the help of ongoing physiotherapy.

“I know that without the services of the air ambulance and the medical team, I just wouldn’t have recovered as well as I have. I’m so grateful and would encourage people to do what they can to support AANI, it’s a fantastic charity.”

Dr Barclay recalled, “It was fantastic to meet with Shaun again recently and see him recovering so well from his injuries, and a privilege to be part of the team of first responders, NIAS and Air Ambulance NIHEMS crews who provided his initial care.”

At his earliest opportunity, Shaun wanted to volunteer with AANI Charity to say thank you, he wanted to stay in touch and do what he could to help. He now considers himself a ‘customer’ of AANI and volunteering for them has given him the chance to show gratitude and tell his story, demonstrating the amazing efforts of the medical team and the invaluable service provided by the Air Ambulance Northern Ireland Charity.

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