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With over 32 million cars on the road across the UK, road safety has never been more prevalent than it is today. With national Road Safety Week underway it is perhaps the most important time to continue raising awareness around the importance of road safety and the impact it can have on the lives of those it affects. Internal Communications Manager & Executive Assistant Ashleigh Percival shares her story of the road traffic heroes who helped following a traumatic accident.

This year’s Road Safety week’s theme: Road Safety Heroes really resonated with me on a personal level. With the numbers of cars on our roads rising steadily it will inevitably lead to a rise in accidents from minor bumps to the catastrophic life-shattering, our road safety heroes are there to pick up the pieces and put them back together in the wake of the devastation caused and need the recognition they rightfully deserve for these astonishing acts of bravery.

My story starts on a sunny Friday morning back in April 2013. Back then I was a typical 25-year-old girl and had reached the stage in life where your friends are starting to get married. I was no different, and on this fateful morning I set out with 19 of my friends to celebrate our friends Hen Party. Bound for Liverpool from our small mining village in the heart of Yorkshire we boarded a minibus filled with laughter, excitement, and a little bit of wine! Now as far as sleepy villages go ours is located alarming close to most major motorway networks with the A1, M1 and M62 all practically a stone’s throw away, two of which we would use as part of our journey that morning.

Unbeknown to us, shortly after starting our journey a series of unfortunate events started to unfold. Approximately 13 miles away from home, we were involved in a head-on collision with a HVG on the west bound carriageway of the M62.  The initial collision pushed the minibus from the main carriageway over an embankment onto the slip road below.

The impact to our vehicle was so great the back row of the minibus was totally crushed, and we were later told that if I had been wearing a seatbelt, I wouldn’t be here today to tell this story.  My injuries were life-changing and in the blink of an eye I went from being a healthy 25-year-who had never broken a bone to being told there was a high possibility I would lose my left leg below the knee. As well as the acute compound fracture to my tibia and fibula, I also had a smashed patella (kneecap), a ruptured spleen and some severe internal bleeding.  I was rushed to Leeds General Infirmary by air ambulance and on arrival was seen by, in my opinion, the best orthopaedic surgeon on this planet as well as a host of other simply amazing health care professionals. After emergency surgery they managed to save my leg although the damage was so bad, I was left with a leg that was approx. 4inches shorter than the other and a pretty impressive scar where they had literally sewn my leg back on.

What followed was further surgery to fit an extensive llizarov frame (a device that is used to lengthen long bones if too much bone has been lost at the time of accident. It allows new bone to grow in between the two broken bone ends) followed by 6 months of adjustments to stretch my leg back to its original length and intensive physiotherapy to help me walk again.

After reading this most people find what I say a little unbelievable, but I hand on heart believe I have been incredibly lucky. I believe this for two reasons; Firstly 20 of us started that journey that morning but unfortunately, only 19 of us ever came home, the world lost a truly wonderful young lady with her whole life ahead of her that day.

Secondly for the care I received, initially from the first responders: everyone from the firemen who cut us out of the wreckage to the paramedics and air ambulance crew who cared for me and my friends so wonderfully and with such amazing compassion. Then came the hospital staff, doctors, nurses and health care professionals who quite literally put me back to together. We were as a group incredibly lucky to be the first users of the newly formed Major Trauma Centre at LGI, which had opened just three weeks before.

The Major Trauma Centre was founded to treat anyone who has suffered a major trauma within West Yorkshire. Patients are taken to the right hospital at the right time to receive the specialist treatment that they need in order to survive, recover, and return to a normal life free from or with minimal disability. I wholeheartedly believe without the care I received from the Major Trauma Centre, my recovery wouldn’t have been either as good or as rapid. I decided pretty early this was going to take me a long time and I set a target of 12-months and, despite a few setbacks that are inevitable with the severity of my injuries, I walked out of LGI from my last appointment, unaided, 363 days later.

Today the Major Trauma Centre is run in partnership with Day One Trauma Support. Day One’s vision is that everyone affected by major physical trauma is provided with the support to navigate the challenges both they and their family face in the wake of a major trauma. In the days and months after my accident, the care I received was simply second to none. You are taught from an early age that when you are hurt that hospitals are the place you go to receive care, and this was true for me. What moved me and shocked me the most however was the level of care, the emotional support and all the little details that, quite frankly, totally humbled me. I will never be able to thank Day One or the Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust enough for everything they did for me and for putting me back together.

A hero is defined as a person who, in the face of danger, combats adversity through feats of ingenuity, courage, and strength. I can’t think of a better way to describe my road safety heroes.

To find out more about the work Day One do, visit their website here.

To make a donation, which Minster will match, to help road safety heroes, click here.