Julia's story

Julia Russett says she will be forever grateful for the speed and expertise of Wiltshire Air Ambulance when she was thrown from her horse in September 2021.
A patient being carried over a fence on a stretcher. The Bell 429 helicopter is in the background.

The 44-year-old from Burbage, Marlborough, sustained three fractures in her back when her excitable horse unseated her.

Julia recalls: “I knew as soon as I landed that it was a serious injury. The pain was intense.”

“Straight away I asked my 14-year-old daughter Phoebe who witnessed the accident to call her Dad and ask him to come to the yard to put the horse away as I knew I wouldn’t be getting back on and to call the emergency services.

“The call handler explained that an ambulance could take some time to reach us and given the seriousness, they would be calling for Wiltshire Air Ambulance.

“It took just under 15 minutes from the first call for the helicopter to land, thanks to What3Words, which was used following my fall to pinpoint our location for the medics.

“It’s a simple application but it’s massively important, especially if something happens in a rural location,” Julia says.

“We wouldn’t have been able to give a post code for my location but thanks to What3Words we were able to give the air ambulance my exact location and also provide them with a landing location which both my children Phoebe and Freddie flagged down by waving Hi-Viz jackets.

“I’d urge everyone to download the app, you never know when you might need it.”


“I honestly cannot thank Wiltshire Air Ambulance enough.”

Julia Russett, patient

Julia says the critical care paramedics on scene, Ben Abbott and James Hubbard, helped put her at ease immediately and administered pain relief.

“As soon as they arrived it was like ‘you can relax now, it’s going to be fine’,” she says.

“They made me laugh; they were so efficient, calm and organised, which gave me the reassurance I needed.

“I remember them asking me about the pain I was in, and I said it was a five or six out of 10. The paramedic grinned at me and said: ‘Oh you are one of those, I can tell it’s more because your heart-rate is up’.”

With a land ambulance still over half an hour away, friends were called from the village to help the paramedics lift a stretcher-bound Julia into the helicopter.

“I was treated and flown to Great Western Hospital in Swindon by Wiltshire Air Ambulance before a land ambulance would have even made it to the scene,” says Julia. “It’s remarkable when you think of it like that.”

X-rays showed that Julia had suffered fractures of her transverse vertebrae from L2 to L4. Fortunately, there was no damage to the spinal cord or column.

“The consultant told me it was a very rare injury and one usually associated in high speed motorcycle accidents,” she says. “They were shocked I had done the amount of damage to my spine without sustaining internal injuries.”

“The force at which the horse had thrown me had pulled the muscles from the vertebrae causing the three bones to break. It was a 600kg horse effectively slamming on the brakes. The sudden stop combined with the rotation of the fall did the damage.”

Julia says the recovery process was particularly tough. As the breaks were clean I was advised they would heal on their own; I just needed to give it time, I was lucky I did not require surgery and was discharged from hospital the next morning.

A horse rider jumping over a green fence

“The first three weeks after the accident everything was a struggle. Walking – or shuffling as it was – sitting down, standing up, everything hurt. Trying to sleep was impossible because I just couldn’t get comfortable. Even if I did find the right spot, I’d soon seize up and be forced to try and move."

Julia Russett, patient

“I was advised to try and exercise little and often, as much as I could manage. For an active outdoor person being laid up was tough. I remember the first time I managed to walk the dog around the block felt like a huge achievement.

“I couldn’t drive for two months, so couldn’t take my children to school, I couldn’t look after my horses and as I also work with horses so I was off for ten weeks.

“By 14 weeks post my accident, I was driving again, running round after the children, back at work and have even been back on a horse. It really is amazing how your body heals itself.

“I’ve even set a goal for 2022 and that’s to embark on the Bath Half Marathon, raising funds for Wiltshire Air Ambulance in the process. It will be six months post-accident at the time of the Half Marathon; I may not set a record time but just finishing will be an amazing achievement."

A patient laying on a stretcher with a critical care paramedic knelt by their side

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