Copdock crash victim who nearly lost her life on A12 southbound thanks her lifesavers
Sarah Lucy brown
A young Ipswich woman who fractured her neck and suffered multiple bleeds on the brain after a horror crash has told how she was close to death - but survived thanks to the efforts of lifesaving emergency services at the scene.
Sam Eley, 26, was airlifted to Addenbrooke’s hospital after her Peugeot 206 crashed with two lorries on the A12 southbound near the Copdock roundabout on July 5.
The accident closed both carriageways for several hours while firemen, paramedics, a volunteer doctor and police faced a race against time to revive her.
Now in recovery and attending rehab at the Stowmarket-based Icanho brain injury unit, Sam does not remember the accident after suffering post traumatic amnesia.
She was placed in an induced coma and spent three weeks in the hospital’s trauma unit – during which time her mother Carrie, 50, said she would forget conversations that happened only minutes ago.
At one stage the 26-year-old pleaded with her family to admit she had cancer because she had lost weight, had a neck collar on and severe headaches – but had no idea why.
Recalling the time she spent at Addenbrooke’s, Sam said: “It was just a massive shock to hear what had happened. It didn’t feel real and at first I felt like I was in a bad dream.
“When I woke up from the coma and people were telling me what happened, I would forget quite a lot and felt frustrated and upset.
“I fractured my neck badly and was told I had really bad head injuries, I had several bleeds on the brain.”
Carrie, who works at Age UK, said she had a feeling something had happened to Sam after she failed to turn up to a work appointment.
She said: “I just knew. Sam used to work with me and we have a system which logs people in when they arrive, and it was about 15 minutes after Sam was supposed to have arrived that I started to worry.
“I heard on the radio there had been a serious accident and I knew Sam was heading that way and after ringing her what must have been dozens of times without her picking up I rang her dad Dale and he told me not to worry and that Sam wouldn’t have been involved.
“I was terrified and just knew, I don’t know how. Dale was on a project at Addenbrooke’s so he checked it out and we heard it was a girl involved – they told me Sam was going to die so they took me up to Addenbrooke’s in a police car on blue lights.
“It was the worst and most horrific journey of my life.
She added: “When they had got her stable they told me they would be putting Sam in a coma, and that she wouldn’t wake up for at least a day.
“But Sam is a fighter, she was so, so brave and managed to wake up just a few hours after.” Now back at home, Sam visits Icanho a few times a week and is recovering with the help of her psychologist, physiotherapist and support workers.
But the 26-year-old, who will spend Christmas at her sister Kirsty’s home in Stowmarket with the rest of her family and boyfriend Joe, admits she still has bad days.
She said: “I do feel frustrated and confused sometimes, and I can’t do my job because of the brain injury.
“I’m not working but I am going to rehab a few times a week which helps. I like watching television and playing on my iPad when I’m at home as it keeps my mind off it.
“A few weeks ago I went to London with my boyfriend to see Aladdin which was very nice. It made me realise how lucky I am to be alive, my mum was told I was going to die.”
Sam was told by policeman Jerry Cohen, who came to visit her after the crash, that an off-duty paramedic had stopped to help her and was one of the first on the scene.
She now wants to find him and thank him.
“I’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who helped me at the scene, they saved my life,” she added.
“If it wasn’t for them I might not be here now.
“Apparently an off-duty paramedic stopped and helped me. I’d like to know who it was so I can thank him in person.”
And it is not just Sam who wants to give something back – her family are not sending Christmas cards this year but have instead donated cash to the Essex and Herts Air Ambulance.
Carrie added: “Sam’s got so much better very quickly and everyone has told me how amazing and quick her recovery has been. She was meant to be in for a month but came out after three weeks and is so brave.
“Her rehab is helping a lot and me, Dale, and the family would like to thank Addenbrooke’s trauma unit, Toby, Barbara, Kevin and Duncan from Icanho and everyone who helped save Sam’s life, she wouldn’t be here getting ready for Christmas if it wasn’t for them.”
She also thanked family and friends for their support.
Were you the off-duty paramedic who stopped to help Sam? Get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.