June Sampson was on her way home from work when she was hit by a car outside Kingston Hospital. At the age of 80, she was still working as a features editor of her local paper and was heading back for tea. Four years later, her daughter Anna tells us about that night and the impact it has had on her family.
“I was at home in North London when my Dad called me to tell me about the accident”, recalls Anna. “She was at a zebra crossing when a driver leaving his shift at the hospital didn’t see her. She stepped into the road and he knocked her down.”
The driver administered CPR at the roadside and called 999. They sent London’s Air Ambulance, who together with the London Ambulance Service paramedics, resuscitated and stabilised June at the roadside so that she could be transferred to hospital. The severity of her injuries meant that she needed to be taken to St George’s Hospital in Tooting so that she could receive specialist trauma care.
“Unfortunately, my mother was my father’s carer. He’s blind and has very limited mobility due to arthritis. She didn’t like to leave him alone, so was rushing back from work to see him, leaving him very confused about why she hadn’t arrived. At first, my Dad only thought that she had a broken leg. A little while later my sister-in-law phoned back and said that it was much more serious than that; I needed to get down because they didn’t expect her to survive.
“She had surgery that night; among other injuries, she had a broken leg, a broken rib from the CPR and a punctured lung. However, the most serious of these was a bleed on the brain. She had to be kept in a coma for about a week.”
Fortunately, the doctors were able to successfully wake June up, and she made a miraculous recovery. “St George’s Hospital were amazing. They taught her to speak, make conversation, to make a cup of tea. She re-learned every single basic skill, and amazingly did walk again despite the injuries to her leg.”
However, June’s head injury has had a lasting, significant impact on her and her family. “It’s diminished the person that she was”, Anna told us. “After that night, she had no grasp on reality for a long time and couldn’t go back to work. She’s a very different person now. She has moments where she’s like the old mother, but she can’t cook and feels dependent on my father.
“She has no memory of the night and is quite bitter about what happened to her. However, she’s amazingly resilient, always looking forward to the next visit from the grandchildren. She still does her make-up, she still goes out to buy her trousers and take them back again the next day like she always did. She hasn’t lost her fashion sense and her optimism. The team did an incredible job by the roadside; it’s amazing how much we’ve got back.
“Since the accident my daughter, who’s now 15, is very keen to be a paramedic”, tells Anna. “She’s hoping to meet Lynsey, the paramedic who helped treat my mother that day, who we’re sure will inspire her.”
Shortly after she came home, June was awarded the Freedom of the Borough of Kingston. “It’s a way of honoring people who’ve contributed above and beyond to the area. Before the accident, my mother was very heavily involved in the community. She was on every single committee in Kingston and well established on the local paper. She was here there and everywhere, always out at meetings and campaigns. Her mantra used to be ‘all I can while I can.’” June was greeted with a standing ovation as she got up to receive the award. “We’ve now got the chance to repay her for everything she’s done for us”, said Anna.
“Like most people, I had no idea London’s Air Ambulance was a charity. We only realised once we were in the hospital and saw volunteers collecting. That’s why I interviewed Lynsey for the newspaper I work for: to raise awareness that it is a charity. You wouldn’t necessarily know unless you’ve needed their help. It’s a wonderful service.”
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