Published: 03 June 2024

A Cardiff University graduate who suffered facial injuries and a fractured neck on a road trip with friends, says she feels “indebted” to the Wales Air Ambulance Charity.

22-year-old Natasha Burns was in her first year studying Psychology when she was involved in a road traffic collision on a day out with friends in Pembrokeshire.

She said: “We decided to go on a trip, because a few of my mates had decided to walk a trail. But we had exams, so we decided to drive and meet them for the day and then drive back later.

“We were around 10 minutes away from our location when we were involved in a collision with another car. I think it was 60 mph and I bore the full brunt of it because I was on the side behind the driver.

“Luckily all my friends were okay. I do not really remember any of this. My friends have told me that I was conscious but not really making much sense.”

She continued: “The air ambulance airlifted me to University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff, and I was there for a week.

“I broke my neck, cheekbone, my eye socket, and nose and lacerated my liver. I had general bruising stuff like that too. But I was incredibly lucky.

“I remember waking up in hospital and all the nurses and doctors were just telling me how lucky I was because obviously I had injured my neck, but I was fine. I had very mixed emotions, because I could have been seriously injured.”

Natasha had to wear a neck brace for around two and a half months and developed issues with her sight. Natasha said: “I had double vision that the doctors didn’t think was going to go away for a year.

“They said it would take that long and I was facing surgery to line it up.

“So, I had to wear eye patches and these glasses to help my vision return to how it was before the accident. But obviously I was upset as I thought, how am I going to continue my studies at university?

 “Fortunately, it turned out it was just a side effect from the accident and surgery and my eye was able to retrain itself by the end.”

Wales Air Ambulance is consultant-led, taking hospital-standard treatments to the patient and if required, transferring them directly to the most appropriate hospital for their illness or injury. 

It is delivered via a unique Third sector and Public Sector partnership. The Emergency Medical Retrieval and Transfer Service (EMRTS) supplies highly skilled NHS consultants and critical care practitioners who work on board the charity’s vehicles.

Natasha says she will be “eternally grateful to the air ambulance team” who came to her aide. She said: “I just remember being in hospital and one of the first things I said subconsciously and to my parents was, I'm going to do something for the Wales Air Ambulance.

“I just needed to wait until the time was right and I was healed enough. It took a while to get there.”

She added: “I still cannot fathom it. It could have been so much worse. We were in the middle of nowhere with no access to a hospital. There was no telling what the outcome would have been if the air ambulance had not got to me when it did.

“I really appreciate the team that helped me, and I wanted to show them my gratitude because I do think I would be in a vastly different situation if it was not for them. I just feel very indebted, and I've always known that I would do something to help fundraise.”

The Wales Air Ambulance Charity must raise £11.2 million each year to keep our helicopters in the air and Rapid Response Vehicles on the road – with donations and fundraising events key to the service’s survival.

Natasha decided to run the Bristol Half Marathon on behalf of the Wales Air Ambulance this year. And it fell on a very poignant day, three years exactly to the day that the road traffic collision occurred.

She said: “Just weeks before I was speaking to my friend, and they were doing the run, but for the charity Mind. They told me it was on the 19 May. 

“I mean, what are the chances that this is the year I have started running and that there is a chance that I could do a half marathon, on the anniversary of the crash? I took it as a sign and really got quite emotional about it.

“I only had a month to prepare for it, it was the end of university too, I had my dissertation to hand in also. But I did it all raising just under £2,000 and I got my degree.”

Wales Air Ambulance’s Head of Fundraising Mark Stevens said: “It is always moving to hear the stories of those our team has helped in their hour of need.

“We would like to firstly extend our congratulations to Natasha on completing her degree after a challenging time. We are grateful that she chose to fundraise for us, three years to the day that she was involved in a road traffic collision. 

“We are thankful to have the support of all our fundraisers who go that extra mile to ensure our service keeps our helicopters in the sky and rapid response vehicles on the road.”