Published: 23 May 2024

A 42-year-old father of two who was seriously injured in a DIY accident at his mum’s home a year ago is fundraising for the Wales Air Ambulance Charity.

Stuart Needham, who runs a karate school in Llanbedr DC, was cutting down a tree which had fallen during a storm, when he was rendered unconscious after falling 25 feet off a ladder.

He said: “My dad sadly passed away in February, so I had taken the reins at the family home helping out.

“I was doing a little bit of the tree at a time, cutting through a branch in the garden, and it started to rain.

“So, I said to my mother it’s a bit dangerous, so I am going to come down the ladder. As I did, my foot slipped off and I hit the floor.

“My mum ran in and called for an ambulance and then came straight back out and started CPR.”

Stuart suffered a fractured skull, a bleed on the brain and a broken collarbone, four ribs, punctured lung, internal bleeds, broke his right hand and dislocated a finger.

He has no recollection of what happened other than what he has been told.

Upon the air ambulance landing in a nearby field the crew ran approximately 500 metres to Stuart. They assessed him before he was moved by road ambulance to the helicopter.

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.

Stuart said: “They did an ultrasound of my chest and realized straight away that I had a punctured lung. They were able to give me some medicine for internal bleeding and deal with the punctured lung. They took me off to Stoke Hospital and I stayed there for a fortnight.”

He added: “I don’t really remember anything that was on the 5 May 2023. I have vague recollections of odd things.

“I rang my mum on the 16 May to tell her I was in hospital, and she said I know. I’ve been visiting you.”

Stuart was released from hospital on Saturday 20 May 2023, and he said initially his recovery was very slow.

He said: “My memory had gone completely. So, I had to do brain training to help improve its performance. There were days where I wasn’t too bad and some where I couldn’t remember a thing.

“The rehabilitation team would come around testing me every day and give me certain things to remember and then they’d come around the next day to see if I had remembered them. By all accounts it was very, very poor. But towards the end it thankfully got better.

“When I was getting 100 per cent, they said right you are fit to go.”

Within weeks of his accident Stuart returned to teaching students at JKS Llanbedr DC Karate.

He said: “The consultants at the hospital said if it wasn’t for the karate and being used to impact and things like that, I probably wouldn’t have made a recovery as quick as I did.”

Stuart also worked with a patient liaison nurse at the Wales Air Ambulance Charity. They help patients as they recover from a critical illness or injury which can be long and challenging.

“Speaking to a nurse, for her to tell me exactly what I went through and what checks they did, it’s put my mind at ease. I don’t remember going in the helicopter sadly, from start to finish, I don’t remember anything about what checks they did.

“So, talking about it with someone who knows exactly what happened has given me a mental image of everything I went through.”

The Wales Air Ambulance Charity has to raise £11.2m each year to keep our helicopters in the air and its rapid response vehicles on the road – with donations and fundraising events key to the services survival.

Stuart is now on a mission to raise as much money as he can. He said: “For my birthday I did a fundraiser on Facebook which raised £273.

“We've got a lot of kids in the club, so we've done things like guess how many sweets are in the jar and a raffle, and we have now raised a total of £1,000.”

Stuart says they also aim to hold a 24-hour kata challenge later in the year. He said: “What I’ve been through and what the air ambulance did for me, you know it’s going to be continuous.

“So, I’ll keep fundraising as much as I can, as if it wasn’t for them, I am not sure whether I’d still be here.”

Debra Sima, Regional Fundraising Manager for North East Wales said: “It’s so great to hear that Stuart has made a full recovery and is able to continue karate and inspiring the next generation along the way! We are hugely grateful that he has thought of our charity and has pledged to continue to fundraise for us.

“We really depend on people like him to help us keep doing the lifesaving work that we do, helping thousands of patients the length and breadth of Wales each year.

“We need to raise £11.2 million annually – and it really would not be possible without our wonderful supporters.”