Seriously injured rider saved from ‘potential disaster’ thanks air ambulance crew

  • A rider who is still recovering from serious injuries sustained in a fall a year ago is raising vital funds for the air ambulance that came to her aid.

    In September 2020 Joanne Clough fell from her mare Juno while competing in a showjumping competition at Ardnacashel Equestrian Centre in Comber, Northern Ireland. Joanne was warming up when Juno spooked and began bucking “uncontrollably”. As Joanne fell she hit her head on a brick wall.

    “I have no memory of the event and apparently lost consciousness. Having spoken to others, I know the show was stopped and the organisers along with first aiders on site came to my side and called for an ambulance.

    “Everyone was really supportive and helpful to ensure myself, Juno, my helper and my seven-year-old daughter Erin were looked after.”

    The helicopter emergency medical service (HEMS) team, which is provided by charity Air Ambulance Northern Ireland (NI) in partnership with the North Ireland Ambulance Service, arrived and took Joanne to Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast by air ambulance.

    Joanne, who had surgery to remove a brain tumour in August 2018, underwent tests for potential brain injuries. She sustained three fractures to her cheek, damaged the iris of her right eye resulting in blurred vision and has suffered short-term memory loss owing to severe concussion.

    “The scars and fractures on my face have healed, along with the fatigue, weakness and confusion, but my balance remains something that I am continuing investigations for, as my eyesight remains imperfect,” she said, adding Juno has since had treatment for a sacroiliac joint injury, which is suspected to have caused the mare’s reaction on the day of the fall.

    “I am slowly gaining trust and confidence again in the saddle. There are no words to describe the gratitude I feel for the assistance of the air ambulance team that day. Had they not acted so quickly, treated me with such level-headed efficiency and taken me to the hospital so swiftly, I have no idea how I might have ended up.”

    Joanne has now launched the Horse Powered Take Off campaign and prize draw competition to raise funds and awareness for Air Ambulance NI. The competition aims to raise £40,000, the amount it costs to fund the air ambulance, equipment and medical team for one week. Tickets for the prize draw cost £10 and prizes include £1,000 cash prize, a hotel stay, an equine solarium, and vouchers for riding lessons and equestrian retailers. The draw will take place on 30 October. Visit: https://dragoncompetitions.com/product/horse-powered-take-off/

    “A head injury cannot be underestimated and to have been saved from potential disaster by the medical team in this way, is a miraculous success. Thank you so much to the air ambulance team – they are amazing,” said Joanne.

    Grace Williams, Air Ambulance NI area fundraising manager, said the charity is “so inspired” Joanne has made a great recovery.

    “Patients are at the centre of everything we do. We are humbled Joanne has decided to support the wonderful work of Air Ambulance NI through her competition and campaign. As a service we rely heavily on charitable donations to keep the medical team in the air, delivering critical care to patients who have suffered trauma throughout Northern Ireland – without this type of support, the team simply couldn’t fly,” she said.

    “The past year has been especially challenging for fundraising and we’ve seen a dramatic downturn in our income. We sincerely thank Joanne for her amazing support. Despite the pandemic our HEMS team is as busy as ever, responding to on average two calls daily. Since we launched in July 2017, Air Ambulance NI have been tasked on more than 2,388 occasions.”

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