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Ben's Story

“When I went to work that morning I didn’t think I would be airlifted by Wiltshire Air Ambulance.” These are the words of Ben Sibley, who suffered life-threatening and life-changing injuries in a road traffic collision as he drove to work in Swindon town centre.

Ben Sibley (third from left), his wife Lorraine (far left), with Wiltshire Air Ambulance critical care paramedic Richard Miller (second from left) and pilot Nicky Smith (far right) at the airbase at Semington.

The father-of-two was riding a motorcycle on 12 February 2016 when he collided with a car that pulled out in front of him doing a U-turn along Tewkesbury Way.

Due to the seriousness of Ben’s injuries Wiltshire Air Ambulance was tasked to the scene.

The emergency helicopter landed nearby and its specialist critical care paramedics treated Ben at the scene.

Ben was unconscious and had significant blood loss and his blood pressure was low. Wiltshire Air Ambulance carries blood to enable its paramedics to give pre-hospital blood transfusions and Ben was given two units of blood.

As well as injuries to his head and abdomen, Ben also had serious chest injuries and the paramedics used their surgical skills to release air that had built up in his chest, allowing his chest to re-inflate.

When Ben’s condition was stable he was flown to the specialist trauma centre at Southmead Hospital in Bristol in 13 minutes.

Ben, who at the time was 37, was critically ill. He suffered a punctured lung, damage to his heart, eight broken ribs, ruptured spleen, internal bleeding, a severe brain injury and a fractured wrist.

After emergency surgery Ben was in the intensive care unit for four weeks including two weeks on life support.

While he was unconscious Ben’s wife, Lorraine, played music to him and recordings of their two sons speaking.

After waking up from his coma after several weeks Ben said: “I was like a fully grown baby. I had to learn how to feed, talk and walk. I didn’t remember what people had said to me the day before so I kept asking the same questions.”

He spent a further three weeks in the hospital’s neuro unit followed by just under two weeks in a specialist Brain Injury Rehabilitation Unit in Bristol.

Intensive rehabilitation

When Ben returned to his home in Swindon two months after the accident he had lost a third of his body weight.

He began an intensive period of physiotherapy and rehabilitation, going to the gym and re-learning how to undertake daily chores including cooking and cleaning. He also did mind tests to try to regain some of the functionality of his brain.

He returned to work as a management accountant at Zurich in Swindon on reduced hours a year later.

It took 18 months for Ben to understand and accept his brain injury and how it has changed him. The injury caused frontal lobe damage which affects his responses.

Ben is still learning about his brain injury and the effect it has on mood, situations, reactions and tolerances. The shearing impact to Ben’s brain has remarkably not impacted his physical abilities, however there are a number of changes to his personality and approach to everyday situations which he has learned to manage/control as they occur – including unpredictable fatigue.

Ben said: “I can walk and talk and people look at me and think I’m fine. But the brain injury is an invisible disability. It causes me to be fatigued, distant to social situations, unable to multitask or juggle daily life situations.

“The fatigue is also caused by thinking too much and managing my reactions all of the time. People don’t allow or understand for things under the surface – because they can’t see them.

“But after what happened to me I have a new appreciation for life. What’s important to me is making sure Lorraine and our sons are ok.”

Supporting Wiltshire Air Ambulance

Ben and Lorraine are passionate supporters of Wiltshire Air Ambulance.

Ben has joined its Lottery, which costs just £1 week to play and is a key income stream for the charity.

He said: “I don’t play it to win, it’s about giving money to Wiltshire Air Ambulance to enable it to carry on being there to save other people.”

The family have also fundraised by taking part in the Santa Run at Lydiard Park, Swindon, in December 2018 and Lorraine and her stepfather ran the Severn Bridge 10k in August 2019 (pictured below).

Left photo: Ben (far left), Lorraine (fourth from left) and family at the Santa Run, Swindon, in 2018.

Right photo: Lorraine (centre) and her stepfather (far left) completing the Severn Bridge 10km in 2019.

Ben and Lorraine visited Wiltshire Air Ambulance’s airbase, in Semington, in 2019 and met the pilot and one of the paramedics who were onboard the helicopter when it attended Ben.

“It was nice to meet two of the crew who attended me and thank them for saving my life,” said Ben.

“If I hadn’t been given the blood transfusions at the scene of the accident I wouldn’t be alive today. I was in a mess and the blood they gave stabilised my condition. Also, Wiltshire Air Ambulance flew me to Southmead Hospital quickly enabling me to get the specialist treatment I needed.”

Lorraine added: “Wiltshire Air Ambulance is a vital service and as well as fundraising for it I’ve been trying to spread awareness that it is a charity and relies on donations.

“When Ben was in Southmead Hospital the doctors told me it was highly likely that he would need lifetime support, for example with walking and talking. His recovery is near enough a miracle.“

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