Following a serious road traffic incident in which his brother Hugo Yaxley tragically lost his life, Thomas Yaxley bravely shares what happened and explains how Hugo touched so many people’s lives...

Hugo was one of life’s positive people; in his short 20 years, he touched so many people’s lives. We did not realise this, until we saw the number of people that watched his funeral being streamed live and the hundreds of letters that my parents received.

He was a stoic person; always there to listen and support others. You could never stay cross with him for long, he would deploy that wry smile and a look that could get him out of any trouble. Hugo understood the importance of the mind and was a big advocate of facing up to mental health issues and changing the stigma attached to it. After suffering his own turmoil of battling depression and anxiety, he learnt not to let the disease rule his life. He was keen to raise awareness of mental health and share his experience with others; at the age of 16, he spoke publicly to over 300 of his peer group at school.

Hugo was a passionate cyclist; he would often choose to cycle to friends’ houses a couple of hours away, rather than take his car. In 2017, he did a charity bike ride through North Wales and in the summer of 2019, he cycled on his own down to Provence in the South of France. After spending some time in Spain and falling in love with it, Hugo decided that he wanted to go to university in Madrid. So, it seems only fitting that we should combine both these loves together to raise money in his memory.

My brother was madly in love with his girlfriend Minna and although they were young, it was easy to see that they had found something incredibly special in each other. Had it not been for the tragic turn of events which led to Hugo losing his life, we are sure that this love would have played out over their lifetime.

On 16th November last year, our lives changed forever. Hugo and Minna were travelling along the A30 near Salisbury, when they collided head on with a Range Rover. Due to the severity of the incident, multiple emergency services were deployed to the scene, including the Police, Fire Service, Ambulance Service, Coastguard, Wiltshire Air Ambulance, Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance and Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance.

At the point of impact, Hugo suffered a 98 per cent severing of his spinal cord, both of his lungs collapsed and his heart stopped beating. On arrival, the team from Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance managed to get his heart started again, before airlifting him to Southampton Hospital to receive further treatment. Minna was cared for by Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance, who also airlifted her to Southampton Hospital. Tragically, Hugo died in hospital later that night as a result of his injuries, which were catastrophic. Although he didn’t make it, the time that Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance gave to my parents, enabling them to say goodbye, was invaluable and for that, we will be forever grateful.

Following the tragic events of that day, Jo Petheram, DSAA’s Patient and Family Liaison Nurse, was there to offer support to our family, as well as the families of others who were involved in the incident. Being provided with some medical context when needed was a great help and enabled us to understand what happened to Hugo. This was extremely beneficial to us as a family and everything was conducted in a very kind and considerate fashion.

The work of the air ambulance is invaluable. Without them, my parents would not have had the chance to say goodbye to Hugo, and his girlfriend would not be with us today. As Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance receive no direct funding from the Government and rely on public donations, the very least that we can do is try and raise money and awareness for this amazing charity, so that it can carry on delivering this incredible service to others, when they need it the most.

That’s why we are organising a fundraising event in Hugo’s memory called Ride4Hugo. This will be in three parts and we will try to raise £24,000 for four fantastic charities that were close to Hugo and the family’s hearts, including Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance, Place2Be, Sir Hubert Von Herkomer Arts Foundation and Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance.

The first part has already been completed. It took place on the 15th June 2021 where Hugo’s old school, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, did a fundraising day in Hugo’s memory and raised over £5,000.

Part two is a bike ride for friends and family from Hugo’s home in Bristol, to Hugo’s other old school, Marlborough College.

The last part is a public cycling sportive event which will take place on 5th June 2022. This is taking place at Henstridge Airfield, the operational airbase of Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance. There will be three distances, 30km, 60km and 100km. It would be amazing to have as many people there as possible. For more information, please visit: www.ride4hugo.co.uk.

We will also be cycling from London2Madrid in July 2022 in joint memory of Hugo and his aunt, Helen McCrory, who sadly died of cancer earlier this year. For more information on that, please go to www.london2madrid.co.uk.

This was a truly tragic event; as a family, we have tried to live on to honour Hugo’s memory. To date, over £50,000 has been raised in his memory and hopefully, with next year’s events, we will significantly add to that figure. Also inspired by the fantastic work of Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance and the other emergency services, I have been inspired to retrain as a paramedic, so that one day, I can also be there for people like my brother Hugo, when they need help the most.

VIEW FROM THE CREW: Pete Appleby, Critical Care Practitioner and Dr Stewart McMorran

"It was clear when we first saw Hugo that he was critically injured and deteriorating. After rescue from the car, the team set about
delivering an emergency anaesthetic and secured his airway, which allowed us to deliver vital oxygen to the lungs and ensure he was in no discomfort. Due to multiple limb fractures making conventional peripheral IV access and IO access exceedingly difficult, we placed
a ‘trauma line’ in Hugo’s subclavian vein to facilitate resuscitation. Hugo received eight units of blood products at the scene and a drug called tranexamic acid to help limit any further blood loss. We also undertook procedures on his chest to relieve any collapsed lung.

Hugo’s condition continued to deteriorate and his heart stopped, so in addition to the other care continuing, we started cardiopulmonary resuscitation and scanned his heart with an ultrasound machine. We were able to improve his circulation and, although he remained very unstable, we continued giving blood products, which allowed us to fly him to a Major Trauma Centre where he could receive the best ongoing care. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Hugo’s family. This is such a tragic case and so brave of them for highlighting it in this way.”

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