Following a serious road incident, Tamsyn Berry has been on a long road to recovery...

On 23rd January 2020, I was driving in my van near Stonehenge on my way to London from Cornwall, to go to an appointment and see my daughter. An artic lorry pulled out of a layby on my side of the road to do a U-turn in order to head west. It was dark and the lorry was poorly lit. I had no opportunity to take evasive action and as a result my van ploughed headlong into its side. I don’t remember anything about the incident; my first memories were waking up in hospital three weeks later. Many of the incident details that I am sharing today have been told to me by others.

The incident was attended by the police, fire service, ambulance crew and Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance (DSAA) in their outreach car. Apparently, the paramedics were in the van trying to stabilise me and it took quite a long time for the fire service to extract me. DSAA were called, as they didn’t think that I would make it to hospital due to the severity of my injuries. When they arrived, they took over from the ambulance crew and spent around 90 minutes trying to stabilise me. They struggled to get a line into me as all my limbs were so damaged, so I think they had to put it in my chest or neck. The team then ground escorted me in the ambulance to Southampton Hospital.

As a result of the incident, I broke both my arms, my left leg, right foot and a few bones in my face. I suffered a fractured skull, punctured a lung, and most of my limbs suffered some de-gloving. The head injury resulted in bleeds to my brain and one of my fingers eventually had to be amputated as it couldn’t be saved.

I spent three days in surgery, as the hospital staff tried to piece me back together. They put me in an induced coma for nearly three weeks. Apparently during the first 10 days, the doctors gently told my family not to get their hopes up. As time went on, they began saying that when I woke up, there was a chance that I would be brain damaged; this must have been an awful thing to hear.

My family were amazing. My brothers, sister, in-laws, husband and daughter all put their lives on hold to make sure there was always someone with me in hospital. Even when I was in the coma, one of them would be with me, reading to me or just holding my hand.

When I woke up, I was in a really good mood, which was probably thanks to the loving care they gave me (or the medication I was on!). I was just so delighted to see all my family; we were all so buoyant and cheerful. My sister, particularly, was incredible. She liaised with the doctors and nurses, supported the rest of my family and made sure I was getting all the care I needed.

I spent just over five weeks in Southampton Hospital before being transferred closer to home. I was in Derriford Hospital in Plymouth for a couple of weeks, before finally being taken to Liskeard Hospital in Cornwall in March. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the fact that a positive case was reported in Liskeard, I was discharged, although they were not able to offer me the rehab and care I still needed. Unfortunately, I couldn’t manage the stairs due to my leg fixator, so I went to live with my cousins as they had a downstairs bathroom and bedroom. There, I stayed for six months until the cage was removed. Since then, I have been living with my sister who provides any care I still need.

After leaving hospital with no care package, my sister found physios who were able to give advice online. I needed a lot of help as my limbs we so badly damaged and I needed speech therapy as my voice was damaged due to being intubated for so long (which is very worrying for a singer). After six weeks, I was able to get myself out of bed and go to the bathroom, which was incredibly exciting. She worked with me every day for months, to try to get my limbs, particularly my hands, working again.

Nine months after the accident, I started driving again and went back to work part time. I’m delighted to say that my voice also returned, so I’ve been gigging with my bands in between lockdowns too.

My brain injury is frustrating at times, but I’m learning to live with it. I’m permanently disabled from some of my injuries and I have lots of scarring and skin grafts. However, my overall outlook on life is positive and overflowing with gratitude.

I was so delighted to get a call from Jo Petheram, DSAA’s Patient and Family Liaison Nurse, who explained that she’d been there at Southampton Hospital and talked to my family. I was really touched that someone had got in touch to find out about my recovery and to facilitate contact with the air ambulance crew. It was good to know that they really cared and wanted to know how I was getting on. I have so many gaps in my memory, so being able to talk to people who could help me to fill them was so useful and a real bonus. At some point, we are hoping to arrange for my band to perform for them as a special thank you.

I wanted to share my story because it’s an opportunity to offer my thanks and praise to everyone who helped me. I’m very aware that for the most part, they do this incredible work without receiving any thanks! It was a privilege to talk to some of my saviours on Zoom and I’m completely awestruck with everything that they did to save me, they are simply amazing!


"By the time we arrived at Tamsyn’s incident, the teams on scene had managed to extricate her from her van. They had gained intraosseous vascular access, allowing them to give her some antibiotics, analgesia and tranexamic acid, to help reduce the traumatic haemorrhage. They had ensured she was being kept warm and had made an excellent job of dressing her multiple injuries.

Paul Owen and I subsequently spent over an hour on scene. Our assessment suggested that Tamsyn had primarily sustained injuries to her head, chest and limbs. She was anaesthetised, intubated and ventilated. We inserted a right subclavian MAC line for vascular access and an ultrasound guided right femoral arterial line for blood pressure monitoring. (The injuries to her limbs prevented conventional peripheral vascular access or non-invasive blood pressure measurement.) An ultrasound confirmed that Tamsyn had a traumatic pneumothorax (this is caused by an injury that tears your lung and allows air to enter the area between your lungs and chest wall), therefore we performed a right thoracostomy. A pelvic splint was applied, she was kept warm in a Blizzard blanket and we monitored her temperature using an oesophageal probe. Enroute to hospital, Tamsyn received blood and plasma resuscitation in the form of four units of plasma and three units of packed red cells.”

NEXT: Paul's Story

If you've been inspired by Tamsyn's story, and would like to help us to continue saving lives, we would be grateful to receive your donation. No matter how big or small, every penny donated really will make a big difference! Thank you.

Please select a donation amount (required)
Set up a regular payment Donate