On a sunny Saturday in July, motorbike enthusiast Sam Graham, 56, was enjoying a ride along the White Park coastal road in County Antrim when tragedy struck.
Sam was travelling home to Ballymoney on a road he had travelled many times before on his bike, but this time his onward journey would be by air rather than road.
He reduced his speed as he approached a well-known blind bend on the road, but he was clipped by an approaching vehicle and was catapulted from his bike, landing on his left-hand side. While on the ground he was then struck by part of his motorbike which had been broken in half after colliding with another oncoming vehicle. This sent him sliding another 70 yards down the road.
Other road users quickly raised the alarm and due to the severity of the accident and the injuries sustained, the HEMS (Helicopter Emergency Medical Service) team were tasked to the scene of the collision.
The Air Ambulance arrived at the scene in less than 25 minutes. The HEMS team, Dr Rob Barclay and paramedic Emma Boylan, were able to provide critical care interventions at the scene which included a pre-hospital anaesthetic and immediate chest interventions to support his breathing.
Sam’s badly smashed ankle was aligned to help prevent the lack of blood supply to his foot. In Sam’s opinion this road side care undoubtedly saved his life that day.
Dr Barclay said: “Accidents involving motorcyclists always have the potential to be extremely challenging.
“When we arrived we could see that Sam was in a lot of pain, had difficulty in talking and we were concerned about the potential for serious injury.
“It became apparent from an early stage that we needed to perform a pre-hospital anaesthetic to support Sam’s breathing and to help with the pain.”
Sam was airlifted to the Royal Victoria Hospital intensive care, where he stayed for a month, being treated for a bleed on the brain, 10 broken ribs, two punctured lungs, a fragmented vertebrae, a badly smashed ankle which needed surgery to rebuild using two plates and 10 screws. Sam was put into an induced coma for 17 days which caused great concern for his family.
Sam is now well on the road to recovery and has started physiotherapy. Having been involved with motorbikes his entire life, including working as a mechanic for Joey Dunlop for over 30 years, then Joey’s brother Robert Dunlop for three years and even Robert’s son Michael Dunlop for a year. Sam is back on his bike again on the open road and will not let this accident put him off.
Speaking of his accident, Sam said: “I know that without the services of the Air Ambulance and the medical team, I just wouldn’t have made it that day.
“With their expertise, technical equipment and speed, it’s like bringing an intensive care to the road side. I’m so grateful for Rob and Emma and the entire team – I will never be able to thank them enough.
“Rob visited me while I was in hospital and it was so great to meet one of the people who treated me that day. I would encourage people to do what they can to support Air Ambulance Northern Ireland. It’s a fantastic charity.”
The charity, Air Ambulance Northern Ireland (AANI), in partnership with the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS), provides the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) for the region and responds to seriously ill or injured patients, seven days a week, for 12 hours a day.
AANI requires £5,500 per day to keep this vital service going, meaning £2 million must be raised each year.
n You can support the charity by joining Club AANI, an exclusive members club, for a weekly donation of £2. To find out more about the charity, how to join Club AANI or how to support AANI visit www.airambulanceni.org or call 028 9262 2677.