23rd Jul 2020
I am a keen mountain biker and I regularly cycle in the South Downs National Park. I live in Eastbourne close to the foot of the Downs. On Saturday 6th June 2020 I set off early on my electric bike and headed for Friston Forest via the Long Man of Wilmington. This was my first ride on the electric bike and I decided to extend my ride over the Seven Sisters as I would not ordinarily do so on my manual bike. I was eager to get home soon as the weather was about to change.
The Seven Sisters are very challenging, especially towards the end of a ride. The weather was still glorious and, with the aid of the electric motor, I had bags of energy in reserve. I descended down a very steep incline in excess of 40mph, briefly took in the view of the sea to my right, before focusing on the route ahead. I was suddenly confronted by a large steep mound. Too late to avoid it, I hit the mound and was thrown over the handlebars; I landed at least 15ft away from my bike.
My feet were cleated into the pedals and the bike veered to the left, whereas I went to the right. My electric mountain bike is twice the weight of my manual bike and I believe that the weight, in conjunction with the cleats, contributed to my right leg double femur fracture. I landed on my back but fortunately my rucksack cushioned the blow and this resulted in severe bruising, but no further breakages.
Coincidentally, a walker had just passed me in the opposite direction and I called out for help. He promptly came to my side. We were in no doubt that I would need the assistance of the emergency services. He had a very weak mobile phone signal so he had to climb the hill in order to summon help. In his absence my right leg swelled to more than double the size. I felt all around my back for signs of breaks and I was relieved to discover that it appeared to be just swelling and bruising. I removed my rucksack and helmet and set about supporting my injured leg and finding a more comfortable lying position as it was clear that it would be some time before help would arrive. I removed my mobile phone from my rucksack and I was relieved to discover that I had quite a strong signal. I phoned my wife who alerted the emergency services.
Within minutes my wife phoned me back and instructed me to ring 999 direct in order for them to triangulate my location via a text message they sent to my phone. It contained three words which were elects, perfume, bluffing. By saying those words they were able to find my location.
I’ve subsequently downloaded the app called what3words. If I’d had the app at the time then they could have got my GPS location almost instantly.
It was a remote location, therefore I informed the Operator on the end of the line that a normal ambulance wouldn’t be able to get to me. I’d been in shock up to this point but could just start to feel the pain taking over. Fortunately a few other people came over to help me and they kept me warm and reassured me that help was on its way. One was an ex-paratrooper who clearly had first aid experience. He immediately took control of the situation and this was very reassuring.
I was lying with my back to the cliffs and I spotted the KSS air ambulance in the distance. By now the weather had changed and become very windy and wintry. Conditions were challenging for the crew to set down the helicopter. The relief was immeasurable when I saw them land; I could have cried in that moment. Whilst it was painful, very painful, the worst thing was the uncertainty. I couldn’t be sure of the extent of my injuries and I wasn’t sure how long it would take for medical help to arrive.
I felt immense relief and reassurance when I saw the KSS crew exit the helicopter in their bright red outfits and start to make tracks in my direction.
Almost immediately more paramedics in green outfits appeared from the right of the helicopter. I later found out that the other paramedics from SECAmb had to park further away and had to walk some distance to get to me.
The crew from KSS introduced themselves and reassured me. They said, ‘Don’t you worry, we’ll get you to safety as soon as possible’, before explaining the treatment they were going to give me.
They gave me a very strong sedative while they straightened my leg to stabilize the fractures, and put a splint on to keep it straight. I came round and the paramedics’ faces came into focus. By this time they were ready to roll and lift me onto a bed to transport me to the helicopter.
As we settled into the helicopter and prepared for lift-off, my wife appeared at my side and grabbed my hand. She had reached me in the nick of time and we had literally moments before the helicopter set off for the transfer to hospital.
I felt quite alone and isolated and I was nervous of what was to come. During the flight one of the paramedics, Caroline, grasped my hand and I found this comforting and reassuring. We were at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton within around 10 minutes.
I spent quite a lot of time in the A&E trauma ward, awaiting the results of my scan. During this period the two KSS crew members contacted the hospital to find out how I was doing; they really didn’t have to do that, and it meant so much.
I had surgery on my leg two days after my accident as my femur was broken in two places. They had to insert metal work into my leg. I’m an active person so it’s frustrating that I can’t pursue my normal sporting interests. That said, on the whole my recovery is going well. I’m really keen to get back out on my bike but I know that this incident will change the way I ride in the future.
I live on the flight path of Beachy Head, in Eastbourne. Three or four times a week I see the Air Ambulance fly over. It was a real eye opener to learn that KSS is a charity; their funding is vital and the services they provide are something that should not be taken for granted.
I can’t thank KSS enough for the ways in which they helped me. I’d say that comparatively my injuries are fairly minor compared to others that KSS help. For others it is literally life-saving work.
what3words is the easiest way to describe any precise location. It has divided the world into 3m squares and given each one a unique identifier made from three words.
It can be used via the free mobile app and the online map here.
It’s a great tool for the emergency services but also for telling friends exactly where to meet or for if you’re using a ride-hailing app for example.
You can find handy step-by-step instructions on how to use the what3words app here.