Every minute counted when schoolgirl Betty Boland sustained a serious head injury in a freak accident.

The accident

Our daughter Betty was six and a half when she had a horrific freak accident after school; it was days before the end of the school term. She was playing outside and had gone to look for her football which had disappeared into the shrubs at the end of the garden. She decided to climb on the roof of our neighbour’s workshop to see if it was there and fell 12ft through the roof landing onto her head.

Betty sustained a life-threatening brain injury and in the blink of an eye, our lives flipped upside down. It would be 17 days, before we would return home again.

The care Betty received

Within minutes of calling 999, a first responder arrived, quickly followed by the ambulance service paramedics. They made the decision to call for the assistance of Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance; a decision that would prove to be crucial, given the nature of Betty’s injuries.

betty and air ambulance helicopter and crew

After doing as much as they could for Betty on the ground, we were both put inside the ambulance and taken to Westland’s helicopter base where the air ambulance had landed. There we met the critical care team who provided further assessment. Betty had a suspected closed head injury; if there was any bleeding inside her head (which was feared, due to her reduced conscious level), she needed to get to a specialist children’s hospital that could perform neurosurgery as soon as possible.

The air ambulance team prepped us for take-off. They were so calm and told me what to expect when we landed; within 20 minutes we were on top of the helipad at Bristol Children’s Hospital.

Betty's time at Bristol Children's Hospital

We were greeted in Bristol by an emergency room full of briefed professionals and not a moment was wasted; Betty was intubated and rushed for an MRI scan and X-rays. These showed that she had fractured her skull, had bruising and several bleeds on the brain and she had damaged her lungs.

betty Boland schoolgirl in hospital

Betty spent five days in intensive care in an induced coma, while the incredible paediatric intensive care unit team did all they could to stabilise her and manage the pressure within her head, to protect her brain from damage as the bleeding and swelling developed. After some really scary touch-and-go moments, the staff were able to reduce the sedation and Betty began breathing independently. She was taken off the ventilator and as the effects of the medication faded, it was time to see what, if any, lasting damage there was.

Gradually, Betty came back to us in every way and we moved through the different hospital wards, which offered various levels of care, before we were ready to be discharged. We walked away with some dissolvable stitches, owing a million thank you’s and a new found level of gratitude.

The recovery after the accident

Throughout our experience, Jo Petheram and Kirsty Caswell (Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance’s Patient and Family Liaison Nurses) were heaven sent. They were able to get us into a bedroom within the Ronald McDonald charity house located near the hospital. This meant that one of us could be with Betty 24/7, while the other could get some rest. They had all the experience to explain what we could expect with regards to Betty’s treatment and what was happening along the way. They continued to follow up with us during our time at the hospital and when we got home, to check if we needed any support.

Unbelievably, Betty was able to go back to school with her friends in September, when the new term started. We have since been back for a few check-ups and fortunately there is no lasting damage!

We are forever indebted to the team at Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance. The time saved by airlifting Betty to Bristol was critical and that is why she is still here with us today. She remembers nothing about the incident, mostly only the puddings in the hospital!

The DSAA team that attended Betty’s incident were: Phil Hyde, Dave Thom and Max Hoskins. 

Also in attendance from the ambulance service were: Joanne Male, Michael Harris and Justin Prangell.

We Can’t Save Lives Without You

If you've been inspired by Betty and her family'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

NEXT: Ella's Story