Chesterfield teenager had to learn to walk, talk and eat again after being seriously injured in car crash
A Chesterfield teenager who had to learn to walk, talk and eat again after being seriously injured in a crash is the face of a summer fundraising campaign by the local air ambulance.
Jael Rowles, 17, from Old Brampton, and her family credit the critical care crew from Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Rutland Air Ambulance (DLRAA) with saving her life after the car she was a passenger in collided with an oncoming vehicle which had lost control.
Jael was immediately knocked unconscious and suffered serious head injuries.
The accident happened in August 2019 when Jael and two cousins were travelling in a car driven by her uncle.
Miraculously just 15 months later she has recovered enough to cycle 10km, run 2.5km and swim 400m to complete a fundraising triathlon where she raised more than £8,000 for DLRAA.
She said: “I wanted to thank the air ambulance by raising enough money for at least one mission to help other people who might find themselves in a frightening emergency like I did.
“The fact I was able to raise enough money to pay for nearly five missions is amazing.”
Appeal letters featuring Jael’s incredible patient story and triathlon accomplishment are now being delivered to thousands of local households.
Recipients are being asked to make a donation which will be doubled by a trust fund – up to a total amount of £90,000.
“The physical challenge was not easy for her and she had to train hard, but it gave her something to aim for,” said her dad, Adrian.
He recalled the awful moment when he and his wife Priscilla heard that their daughter and relatives had been involved in the crash.
They were phoned by a passing motorist who knew the family and recognised the people who had been injured.
“When we arrived at the scene the road was blocked and there were at least four ambulances there,” he said.
Due to the time of day – it was beginning to get dark – the air ambulance crew attended the accident in the critical care car instead of the helicopter.
It took them under 30 minutes to travel from their base at East Midlands Airport to the scene.
The critical care team was able to give emergency anaesthetic treatment to Jael at the scene which is usually only performed in a hospital environment.
The air ambulance team accompanied Jael in a land ambulance to Sheffield Children’s Hospital.
Jael was in intensive care for two weeks and the neurological ward for three months.
During this time, she underwent an intensive rehabilitation programme with a team of specialists in physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy and neuropsychology.
Her parents were by her side all this time and lived at the hospital in a room provided by a charity which supports children with brain injuries.
In mid-November, Jael returned home to continue her physiotherapy and by April 2020 she was able to take part in online lessons organised by her school.
She went back to the classroom with a support worker in September but since the third lockdown has been doing online learning at home again.
Jael said: “I would like to thank again the local air ambulance, to whom I am ever grateful, for acting the way they did on that day.”