A FORMER RAF pilot from Lacey Green who suffered life-threatening injuries when he was hit by a car while cycling has told of the “amazing” care he received from the Thames Valley Air Ambulance.

Spencer Hillier was cycling fast downhill when he hit a car at a junction just as it was pulling out back in May 2019.

The next thing he remembers, he was on all fours at the side of the road and thought he was dying because he could barely breathe.

It turns out both his lungs were punctured - and he needed help fast.

A road ambulance turned up with a Thames Valley Air Ambulance paramedic on board - and they set about getting Spencer to lie down before cutting his clothes off.

Recalling the traumatic day, he said: “I remembered nothing else until waking up in the ICU. In those intervening two hours, I was attended to by the Thames Valley helicopter and the amazing doctors and paramedics that saved my life.

“All of the team on scene saved my life at the side of the road, by effectively operating on me at the roadside. They fitted drains to my chest to allow the pressure to stabilise and get oxygen into my body.”

Critical Care Paramedic Ben Watts, PHEM Doctor Stewart McMorran and pilots Dave Webber and Jim Hamilton flew in the helicopter to Spencer.

Because of his chest injuries, the crew had to give him pain relief, anaesthetic and blood, as well as putting him into an unconscious state to take control of his breathing and making surgical incisions in the chest to relieve pressure on his lungs at the roadside.

The crew flew Spencer to the John Radcliffe Hospital, where he was attended to the trauma team. After spending 10 days in intensive care and a couple of days on a ward, he arrived home and began the long process of recovery.

Spencer said: “After talking to hospital doctors, I realised that medical experiences from Afghanistan and Iraq had taught that it is better to operate on the roadside or in a ‘dirty’ environment to save life, and to worry about infection later.

“I feel like if I had been taken by a land ambulance alone, I wouldn’t have survived a trip to the hospital.

“Applying oxygen to my face through a mask would not have functioned. The normal paramedics in the land ambulance wouldn’t have had the requisite qualifications to carry out the roadside operation that Thames Valley Air Ambulance did, and I absolutely believe that I owe my life to them.”

Spencer previously thought air ambulances were just a faster way of transporting injured people to hospital - but the team actually worked on him for more than two hours.

He added: “Before, I thought it had been instantaneous, and just thought I had been picked up and taken to hospital.

“Even then, I still didn’t realise that I had been close to death.”

A year on after his accident, Spencer took part in a 100-mile cycle with a couple of his friends to fundraise for Thames Valley Air Ambulance in a bid to say thank you. He added: “Thames Valley Air Ambulance is incredibly important to me.”