A man who was impaled on a fence after a car crash has praised an air ambulance crew, saying he “definitely wouldn’t be here” without them.
Richard Stephenson’s horrific injuries were captured by a TV crew following the work of the Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS).
The 23-year-old, of Workington, Cumbria, was the passenger in his friend’s car when it hit a fence.
A wooden post went through the door and impaled his chest, leaving him with what a medic at the scene called a “once in a career job”.
The doctor recalled thinking it would be a miracle if he survived as he watched the air ambulance lift off and fly him to hospital.
The incident in Workington in October last year features on this Sunday’s episode of Emergency Helicopter Medics on More 4.
Mr Stephenson credits his slow and ongoing recovery to the air ambulance charity.
He said: “If it wasn’t for the air ambulance I definitely wouldn’t be here.”
Dr John Ferris was one of the first to arrive on scene.
He said: “As I approached the car I could hear Richard moaning and began to feel reassured that he must have escaped serious injury.
“But as I came around the side of the car it became quickly apparent that this job was going to be that once in a career job where your skills are stretched to the maximum and beyond.”
Mr Stephenson, originally from South Shields, South Tyneside, was given ketamine and freed from the car before further help arrived from GNAAS and the North West Air Ambulance.
GNAAS paramedic Andy Dalton said: “Dr Ferris had already formulated a plan that he would need to be given a general anaesthetic at the scene so that we could treat the chest injuries he had suffered as the post had gone through his chest.
“This procedure is normally performed with the patient on their back but due to the stake it had to be done with the patient on his side, which made it very difficult.
“There was a concern that Richard may require a blood transfusion but we had already used our blood stocks at a previous incident.
“Therefore, the critical care team based at Teesside International Airport was asked to attend to bring extra blood should it be needed.
“Once the anaesthetic had been delivered, the bilateral thoracostomy procedure was performed on either side of Richard’s chest, which involves cutting a small hole to release a build-up of pressure, which if not relieved could have been life-threatening.”
Once he was stable, Mr Stephenson was flown to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle.
Dr Ferris added: “I remember watching the helicopter fly away from scene thinking that it would be a miracle if he were to survive.”
Surgeons operated to remove the wood but he ended up losing part of his right lung and some of his bowel.
He also suffered kidney damage and needed four weeks of hospital treatment.