January charity news – Wiltshire Air Ambulance

“They save lives by saving time”

Louise Neale, 37, from Wiltshire reveals how Wiltshire Air Ambulance saved her life

Louise Neale - SMG (2)[1]

For Louise Neale, 37, a chance to work alongside horses was a dream come true.“I have always loved horses, so I was delighted to get a job as a racehorse groom when I was 21. Although I was bitten, kicked and trodden on a few times, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”

However, in March 2000, her dream job in Kington St Michael, Wiltshire, took a turn for the worse. “About four months after I started the job, I was leading my boss’s racehorse up and down the lane – a routine part of my job – when it spotted another horse running around in a field,” she explains.

“My horse got all excited, thinking she could do the same, and suddenly reared up and bolted, knocking me completely off balance and kicking me in the head with her hind foot.”

Louise was immediately knocked unconscious as the horse shot up the lane. “Luckily, my boss spotted the horse running past the farm and came out to check where I was. I remember her screaming at me to wake up and putting a rug over me.”

Louise’s boss, Wendy, called for an ambulance to take her to hospital. “Although there was a land crew available, because of the severity of my injury they thought it would be safer and quicker to take me by helicopter, so it was Wiltshire Air Ambulance who came to my rescue. I remember opening my eyes to see paramedics all over the place. Then, to my horror, I realised I couldn’t move or feel anything down my right side.”

Drifting in and out of consciousness, Louise was taken by air ambulance to the Royal United Hospital in Bath for assessment and an MRI scan, then taken to Frenchay Hospital in Bristol for surgery. “My skull had been fractured, so they replaced the broken pieces with two big metal plates. After that, I just had to see if the paralysis was permanent. I was terrified by the possibility that I might be paralysed for life.”

Louise remained in Frenchay Hospital for a week before being transferred back to the Royal United Hospital. “The feeling in my right side still wasn’t back so I had to move in with my parents for a while. I started physiotherapy and was given exercises to do to regain the use of my right hand.”

To Louise’s relief, after two months, the feeling started coming back in her right side. “I was so delighted the damage was only temporary. I was soon walking around again and after a check-up with my GP, I was allowed to go back to work.”

Louise regained all her mobility – except for two fingers on her right hand – and was soon back into the swing of things. “I did have moments of feeling nervous, but I knew I couldn’t leave the horses and was excited to get back into my work.”

Louise now works as a competition groom and does schooling for dressage. She has also been involved with fundraising events to raise money for Wiltshire Air Ambulance. “My whole outlook on life is so much better since my accident. I am much more appreciative and am extremely grateful to Wiltshire Air Ambulance – I owe them my life.

“After my accident, the journey to the hospital took just ten minutes, and I was told having such a quick and smooth journey is what saved my life. I feel so lucky Wiltshire Air Ambulance were there for me and think they are absolutely vital to our community. They need every penny to keep them going so they can save more lives.”

THE FACTS – Wiltshire Air Ambulance

  • Wiltshire Air Ambulance Charitable Trust (WAA) provide an essential helicopter emergency medical service throughout Wiltshire and its neighbouring counties.
  • For over 20 years the helicopter and crew have attended over 15,000 missions involving medical emergencies and accidents, ranging from sports injuries to multiple-vehicle collisions. WAA attend 2-3 potentially life-saving missions a day.
  • From 2015 it will cost £2.5m a year to keep the air ambulance operational.
  • The air ambulance can reach anywhere in the county within 11 minutes.


The money raised in The Candis Big Give will help purchase two portable ultrasound monitors for Wiltshire Air Ambulance, which will enable the crew to diagnose serious lung and cardiovascular emergencies, potentially speed up clinical decisions and provide the best medical care.

Photograph: Stephen McGrath at

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