Pete's story

On 7 March 2015 Pete Burch was on a motorcycle ride out with friends and his father when he suffered a catastrophic, life-changing accident.
Pete's story

He was involved in a collision with a car which threw him off his motorcycle into the road and was then struck by another car on the A30 near Salisbury.

A land ambulance arrived, but due to the serious injuries Pete had sustained Wiltshire Air Ambulance was dispatched.

Pete, who at the time was aged 26, had multiple fractures, a collapsed lung and his left arm was almost completely severed at the elbow.

Wiltshire Air Ambulance’s critical care paramedics treated and stabilised Pete on scene and he was flown to Southampton General Hospital, a major trauma centre, in six minutes.

Pete immediately underwent nine hours of surgery on his arm. He was in a coma for two days in the intensive care unit followed by two days on the high dependency unit.

After three weeks he was discharged from hospital to his home in Hampshire and underwent 24 months of intensive physiotherapy and occupational therapy.

Pete said: “Without question Wiltshire Air Ambulance saved my life.

“I would not have survived the 20 minute road journey in an ambulance to Salisbury District Hospital, which was the nearest hospital.

“But I needed to go to a major trauma centre, the closet being an hours drive away in Southampton. The six minute helicopter flight to Southampton General Hospital is the only reason I am alive.”

Former patient Pete Burch holding his baby, Albie

Pete’s left arm remained paralysed after the accident and a year on Pete underwent an extremely rare, eleven hour operation in Bristol to improve his quality of life.

Part of his hamstring muscle was removed from his left leg and inserted into his left arm, through his shoulder and down past his elbow. Nerves were taken from his intercostal muscles between his ribs to fire the ‘new’ muscle.

The operation was undertaken in a bid restore movement in Pete’s arm, as well as correcting the subluxation of his shoulder joint - similar to a permanent dislocation - which had occurred as a result of the paralysis.

Pete said: “It took six months for the nerves to recognise they needed to stimulate part of my hamstring as a new bicep muscle, but they did and after the first few flickers of movement the rate of recovery was quite impressive.

“I now have a relatively stable shoulder joint, much reduced neck and shoulder pain with the added party trick of being able to flex my left arm whenever I breathe in deeply!

“Several years on and the control I have in my arm has progressed, so much so all I need to do now is ‘think move arm’ rather than actively trick the nerves into stimulating the muscle transfer. It has been the perfect example of how plastic surgery can massively enhance a patient’s quality of life.”

"Without Wiltshire Air Ambulance I most definitely would not have survived and I will support this amazing charity for the rest of my life."

Pete Burch, Former patient

Despite his catastrophic accident, Pete’s passion for riding motorcycles remained and he was determined to get back in the saddle.

Just seven months after the accident he did so with the support of a charity called The Bike Experience, riding a semi-automatic Aprilia Mana 850cc on the track at Donington Park circuit.

Since then he has been riding his own motorcycle, which has been modified so he can ride with just his right arm, both on roads and tracks.

He said: “Jumping back on a bike never really phased me as I have no memory of the incident or the next few days. The incident was not my fault nor that of the bike, but careless driving from another road user, so this really helped me mentally in my pursuit to start riding again.”

With the support of another charity, National Association for Bikers with a Disability, Pete and his dad modified a Kawasaki 900cc ZX-9R Ninja and he rode it on the famous Portimao circuit in Portugal in 2017. 

A motorcyclist on a green motorbike

Pete, who lives near Romsey in Hampshire and works as a charity fundraiser, is a motivational speaker and talks about his experience at fundraising events for Wiltshire Air Ambulance.

Pete has made a monthly donation to Wiltshire Air Ambulance since his accident and he has also left a gift in his Will to the charity.

“Without Wiltshire Air Ambulance I most definitely would not have survived and I will support this amazing charity for the rest of my life,” he said.

“I have recently got to that stage in my life where a Will is required. It just so happened that a Make a Will advert from Wiltshire Air Ambulance popped up on my social media, and it was free to do. So, my fiancée and I have both used their online service to complete our Wills and, of course, Wiltshire Air Ambulance will benefit from this one day.”

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Two male paramedics, wearing orange flight suits, standing in front of a yellow and green helicopter, holding a large novelty cheque