Stuart takes up the story: My story began in 2010 when I visited my doctors with bad headaches; they thought it was muscular, as I was a fit and healthy 32 year old PE teacher. I had to visit an osteopath and have regular massage to try and ease the pain. Fast forward to July 2012 and the headaches were worse than ever.
On 6th September my life changed forever when late that evening I collapsed while at home. At the time I lived in a small village called Maiden Bradley close to the Longleat Estate near Warminster.
I remember falling and managing to ask my fiancée, Cherie, to call 999 before losing consciousness. An ambulance was sent to our house and paramedics arrived to find me drifting in and out of consciousness. I showed symptoms of a stroke with pupils of different sizes and being incapable of moving one side of my body. As soon as they saw this they knew I needed specialist treatment and called for Wiltshire Air Ambulance.
They landed at Clay Hill - a night landing site for the helicopter – getting there within 6 minutes despite the worsening weather conditions and threat of fog. The land and air crews carried me over a gate and into the field where the helicopter had landed.
I was flown to Frenchay Hospital in Bristol, where I suffered respiratory arrest and was sent straight for a scan. This showed that I had Hydrocephalus (fluid on the brain), in other words my brain was being crushed. I had emergency surgery to fit a drain and then three days later had another operation. They later told me that, I was lucky to be alive.
I owe my life to the skill and decision making of the ground crew: Judy Wilmott and Naomi Gillespie and also the aircrew for their professionalism and willingness to fly in adverse weather conditions.
They got me to Frenchay within 11 minutes – if we’d gone by road it would have taken me over an hour to get there and it’s unlikely I’d be telling you this story now. My family would like to thank you from the bottom of their hearts.
A second chance at life
Wiltshire Air Ambulance saved my life, but it’s not just my life they saved. It meant I could get married and Cherie and I had our beautiful daughters, Pixie and Harmony.
I’m back working as a PE teacher and in 2017 I ran the Bath Half Marathon for Wiltshire Air Ambulance for the first time. It was tough and very emotional and when I crossed the finishing line I burst into tears.
Wiltshire Air Ambulance is a charity that everyone in Wiltshire knows about, however unless you require its assistance, you don’t really appreciate how much it’s needed. We live in a vast county with all the specialist hospitals out of the county. In my opinion we should view our charity in the same vein as car insurance - you pay it but hope never to use it. Car insurance costs hundreds of pounds, the Wiltshire Air Ambulance would cost a few pounds per person if everyone paid it.
I am a volunteer with the charity and talk about my story to groups and at fundraising events. I bring with me videos and photos; I also answer questions and take donations.
"I carry the best thing of all - living proof that Wiltshire Air Ambulance is well worth while!"