Published: Wednesday 11 May 2022

A bank holiday trip to Wales last year will be one to remember for the Love family but for all for the wrong reasons.

Jean Love was staying in a holiday cottage in Lampeter with her family when she slipped as she was walking down the stairs.

Jean, from Walsall, fell down most of the staircase and hit her head on a sofa, that was near the bottom of the stairs, which resulted in a very serious head injury.

The grandmother-of-six was knocked unconscious and was bleeding from her nose, mouth and ears. Jean, who was 77 at the time, also broke her collar bone and two ribs and fractured her skull. The Wales Air Ambulance was called due to Jean’s injuries being life threatening and the family were told that she might not pull through.

Wales Air Ambulance medics Dr Pete Williams, Critical Care Practitioners Mike Ainslie and Ian Thomas, and Pilot James Benson attended the emergency call. 

On arrival, Jean had a decreased level of consciousness and was bleeding from her nose and right ear.  The crew knew these were worrying signs of a severe head injury so to protect her brain from any further damage they gave Jean a general anaesthetic. This involved putting a breathing tube down into her lungs and connecting her to a breathing machine.

Following stabilisation, the Wales Air Ambulance crew were able to fly her directly to the Major Trauma Centre at the Royal Stoke University Hospital.

Jean’s son, Phill, said: “The air ambulance arrived quickly and were able to treat her at the scene, saving her life and giving her the best chance to pull through.”

Following assessments, scans confirmed that Jean had sustained an extensive traumatic brain injury, with multiple fractures of her skull, collar bone, ribs and two bones in her lower back.

After being reviewed by the neurological and critical care team, sedation was stopped to try and wake Jean up and they took off her breathing machine. She was then admitted to the neurological ward.

Over the next three days, Jean’s condition remained unchanged and her conscious level remained low. She had another scan which showed that there was a slight increase in swelling on the brain. Jean’s family were updated on her condition and it was explained her prognosis was poor and there was a chance she may not survive. She was then seen by the palliative care team.

Miraculously, over the next 24hours Jean’s condition started to improve significantly and within several days she was able to move all her limbs, feed herself and had started to communicate.

Phill said: “It was a rollercoaster over the first few days, with all of us assembling to say goodbye at one point. However, she rallied round and the Jean Love twinkly eyes started to emerge. As the days passed, she slowly started to come back to us, but has a road to recovery still ahead of her.”

Jean’s health continued to improve and after 20 days she was transferred from Royal Stoke University Hospital to the Walsall Manor Hospital. She was later transferred to Samuel Johnson in Lichfield for rehabilitation before being discharged home to her family eight weeks after her fall.

The family, including Jean’s husband Ken, are delighted with her recovery, Phill said: “Considering that we were told she wasn’t going to pull through, mom’s health is pretty miraculous! She struggles for the right word occasionally, but is very good-humoured about it, laughing along with us if she can’t quite remember something, and generally going with the flow. Other than that, I don’t think we’d notice any difference, and I’m certain that nobody would ever think she’s had such a serious accident.

“I don’t think the importance of the Wales Air Ambulance service can be underestimated. Without it, it’s unlikely that Jean would have survived, and even if she did, I’m not sure she would have recovered as well as she has done. The air ambulance is a lifeline. Special thanks go to the North Wales crew – James, Pete, Mike and Ian - along with the Welsh Ambulance Service paramedics who attended.”

Wales Air Ambulance offers advanced critical care and is often described as a ‘Flying ED’. The on-board consultants and critical care practitioners are highly skilled and carry some of the most pioneering medical equipment in the world. They can deliver blood transfusions, administer anaesthesia, and undertake emergency operations at the scene of the incident, before flying the patient directly to specialist care.

Hayley Whitehead-Wright is a patient liaison nurse for the Wales Air Ambulance Charity. She said: “We are delighted to hear of Jean’s remarkable recovery. Her story demonstrates the importance of the Wales Air Ambulance bringing the emergency department to the patient. Our medics were able to put Jean under a general anaesthesia, which is an emergency service only provided by the air ambulance. This ensured that Jean had the best possible care before reaching the hospital.

“It was lovely to meet Jean during her cheque presentation and to see how much she has recovered. She is a remarkable lady, and we wish her well for the future.”

Now operational 24/7, the Charity needs to raise £8 million every year to keep the helicopters flying.

Jean’s grateful family have raised nearly £2,500 for the Wales Air Ambulance Charity after her sons David and Philip asked people for online donations. Jean’s other son Tony, who is a Morris dancer, also did a collection for the Charity at one of their dances which was added to the fundraiser.