Will Mieville-Hawkins says he owes his life to Wiltshire Air Ambulance after the charity came to his aid following a major car accident in Salisbury.
Then aged 25, Will was driving along the A303 from Somerset en route to London to go on holiday to Vilnius, Lithuania in April 2016. It was a flight he would never catch as he was involved in a major car accident.
Will’s car left the side of the road at around 70mph and crashed into a ditch. He suffered a severe traumatic brain injury.
Wiltshire Air Ambulance flew to the scene and stabilised Will before flying him to Southampton General Hospital in just nine minutes. He was taken to the Neuro ICU department, where scans revealed eight different bleeds across his brain.
Will would spend the next eight months in hospital, five of which in a coma.
He says: “It was like having eight brain haemorrhages at the same time. The pressure on my brain caused me to forget how to do everything, including breathing and swallowing.
“I was given pioneering therapy from within my coma and I put much of my recovery down to that.
“After my time in Southampton, I was transferred to Musgrove Hospital in Taunton, where I spent a further two months in intensive care. After that, I was deemed well enough to continue my rehabilitation at the Brain Injury Rehabilitation Unit (BRIU) in Bristol."
“Just imagine you are happy living a great life with everything you wanted and then you wake up the next morning and it’s all gone. Your life has been completely transformed.
“I had lost the sensation down my left side, so I couldn’t move my left arm or walk. I couldn’t wash myself. I had also lost my mental capacity, which meant I had no idea who I was or where I was from April to July.
“I also had a real difficulty talking too, so had to have psychology, speech language therapy, physiotherapy and occupational therapy.
“Then, on Revelation Monday as I now call it, my road to recovery started in earnest. I learnt that Brexit had happened and the world had changed a lot. I had the ability to make new memories from this time onwards.
“I was determined to walk again, pushing myself day after day. I began using a frame in the hospital corridors to walking with a stick outside in the fresh air. I undertook double the number of exercises recommended by my physio for two whole years as I was determined to rectify my limp.
“I know that Covid has heightened everyone’s awareness and feelings towards the NHS and I can’t thank everyone enough who has helped me along my journey.”
Around a year after his accident Will returned to Southampton General Hospital to meet the doctors and nurses who treated him. He has also successfully returned to teaching, which has been one of his key objectives throughout.
“If you want something badly enough you can and will achieve it,” Will says. “It’s onwards and upwards for me and I’m happier now than I was in March 2016 (before the accident).”
In August 2022 he visited Wiltshire Air Ambulance’s airbase in Semington, near Trowbridge, to meet one of the critical care paramedics, Keith Mills, who treated him on the side of the road eight years earlier.
“The purpose of coming [to the WAA airbase] was more than just seeing the helicopter and learning about the operational side of things,” he says. “It was a phenomenal experience and like nothing I’ve ever had before.
“The chance to meet Keith was fantastic and hugely inspiring. He’s not only a very competent professional but also a very nice gentleman.”
Will was joined at the airbase by dad Hugo and girlfriend Jesse.
"I owe Wiltshire Air Ambulance everything – they saved my life."
Will Mieville-Hawkins, patient
Hugo says: “I was actually going to have an operation at Dorchester Hospital in April 2016 when I received the phone call from Wiltshire Police informing me about Will’s crash.
“I was told by the officer Kevin Fry that it was serious and I needed to come quickly. I rushed to the hospital in Southampton, but I didn’t know anything about what had happened before that moment.
“This has been a very moving visit and completes the picture for me, so I can’t thank everyone at Wiltshire Air Ambulance enough.”
Will, now aged 31, added: “I now have a full understanding of how everything works in the air ambulance world, as well as learning about the decisions critical care paramedics have to make under huge pressure.
“For me, it’s given me the pieces in the jigsaw I was missing. I was amazed that Keith was able to remember my incident, given how many missions he must been to since my crash in 2016.
“He helped me understand more about the decisions he took on the day and the fact it took just nine minutes to fly me to Southampton General Hospital.
“Now all the unknowns have been answered, this allows me the chance to shut this chapter of my life and put the incident behind me."