Published Monday 15 August 2022

On the sunny evening of 23 July 2021, Mark Kempsell finished work and thought he’d enjoy a ride out on his motorbike to north Wales.

As he was appreciating the ride and taking in the scenery, Mark’s trip out took a turn for the worse. His bike was involved in a head-on collision with a double-cabbed pick-up truck.

Mark was thrown approximately 25 feet from the accident site and was knocked out instantly. When he woke up, a little while later, he didn’t know where he was or what had happened.

Mark, now 29, said: “I was surrounded by several members of the public, but one chap in particular sat with me the whole time and held my hand. His name was Matthew and he was a biker himself and had been involved in a similar collision around 20 years ago. He helped me make sense of things whilst we waited for the emergency services to arrive.”

Mark, from Newton-le-Willows in Merseyside, was treated by Wales Air Ambulance medics at the roadside and was flown to the Royal Stoke University Hospital.

Wales Air Ambulance critical care practitioners Greg Ambler and Adrian Evans, and Pilot Paul Cakebread, attended the emergency call.  

When the team arrived, Mark was complaining of pain in his neck and top of his spine. His left leg was at a 90-degree angle. His right leg was also bent and Mark was unable to straighten it which indicated to the medical team that there could be potential underlying hip and pelvic fracture.

Mark was also complaining of pain in his chest and abdomen. In addition, he had obvious fractures to his left arm.

At the roadside, the Wales Air Ambulance medics gave Mark strong intravenous medication for pain relief. They had to manipulate his left leg back into the correct position, to maintain adequate blood flow to his leg. They then placed it into a splint.

Mark was also given a medication to help with bleeding and to ease the feeling of sickness.

Mark said: “Given the extent of my injuries and the location, I needed emergency treatment. Wales Air Ambulance was able to bring the hospital to me through their team of medics.

“They were able to administer treatment and transport me to hospital within a short space of time. I believe if there had been no air ambulance here, I wouldn't have survived or at least the risk of further injury would have dramatically increased.”

Mark suffered seven fractures to his neck, pelvis, arm, and wrist and fractured his C2 vertebrae, which is normally fatal or results in paralysis, meaning time and treatment were critical. He also suffered from heavy bruising.

Whilst in hospital he underwent surgery but, unfortunately, complications arose as he had suffered cuts to one of the arteries in his neck.

Thankfully, this was able to be resolved and Mark spent two days in critical care and was discharged from hospital after just 13 days.

He added: “I will never forget waking up on Saturday morning, the day after the accident. I laid there trying to work out what had happened. For a few seconds, I couldn't work out where I was. When I realised and began to piece bits together, I remember saying to myself ‘this event will not define me. I have a long road ahead, but I will get through it’.

“I began to think of all the people who had saved my life, treated, and helped me.”

Mark was discharged from hospital on his birthday, to his father and stepmother’s house, where he recovered for the next two months. He added: “It was a slightly different birthday, but I couldn't have received a better present.”

The Retail Agricultural Manager for the Co-op put on his walking boots to climb Snowdon, on the first anniversary of his accident, to raise funds for the lifesaving charity.

“Whilst in hospital, I began to focus on how I could say thanks to these great people. One morning I heard an air ambulance coming into land at the hospital and it clicked. It was the perfect choice. I feel the Wales Air Ambulance is incredibly important. The fact that they can be in any part of Wales within a matter of minutes is quite incredible.

“Given the landscape of Wales, there are many places where accidents can happen that are hard or impossible for a road ambulance to get to. In most cases, time is a significant factor and the fact that the air ambulance can be with the patient within minutes literally means the difference between life and death.”

Mark is recovering well from his injuries and is now a volunteer for the Charity. His fractures have healed and despite his arm ‘having a way to go’ the doctors are happy with his progress. He added: “I still experience high levels of pain and sleep poorly but when I look how far I've come, I have to be thankful.”

Hayley Whitehead-Wright is a patient liaison nurse for the Wales Air Ambulance Charity. She said: “The crew were able to administer medications to Mark to help with any bleeding and to give him pain relief. Due to Mark’s injuries they had to manipulate his left leg back into the correct position to maintain blood flow. Once stable, Mark was flown to one of the country’s major trauma centres, which helped save his life. Mark had the best possible care before reaching the major trauma centre at Royal Stoke University Hospital.”

The Wales Air Ambulance Charity needs to raise £8 million every year to keep its emergency helicopters in the air and its rapid response vehicles on the road.  

The 24/7 emergency service 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.   

While the helicopter and rapid response vehicle operation is funded by the people of Wales through charitable donations to the Wales Air Ambulance, the medical capability on board is delivered in partnership with NHS Wales, who provide critical care consultants and practitioners through the Emergency Medical Retrieval and Transfer Service (EMRTS Cymru).