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Family thank air ambulance heroes who saved man's life following Tyrone crash

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Peter Kelly and his daughter Erin

Peter Kelly and his daughter Erin

At the Air Ambulance Northern Ireland base in Lisburn are (from left) paramedic Phil Hay, Erin Kelly, her dad, road crash survivor Peter, and Dr Campbell Brown

At the Air Ambulance Northern Ireland base in Lisburn are (from left) paramedic Phil Hay, Erin Kelly, her dad, road crash survivor Peter, and Dr Campbell Brown

Peter Kelly and his daughter Erin

A Cookstown woman has recalled the night her father almost died in a horrific crash - as she praised the Northern Ireland Air Ambulance for saving his life.

It was a routine November night in 2018 when Peter Kelly (48) was driving to his local shop in the Co Tyrone town to get sticks for the fire.

What was a normal everyday journey turned his life upside down when the father-of-two's car collided with a van, leaving him suffering critical injuries.

The crash was so extreme that the engine and gear box were ripped from his car and he had to be cut from the vehicle.

Placed into an induced coma by paramedics at the scene, Peter was airlifted by the Northern Ireland Air Ambulance to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, where he underwent life-saving surgery and began months of agonising rehabilitation.

While Peter still has no recollection of the events of that night, for daughter Erin Kelly (28) the stark thoughts and feelings of the journey to the hospital with mum Alanna (46) remain with her.

"When I was first told, I sort of initially thought 'oh God', but didn't comprehend how bad it was," said Erin.

"On our way to hospital we had been told that daddy had been cut out of the car and had been airlifted to the hospital. At that stage it didn't feel real.

"All I was thinking was that we needed to get to the hospital as soon as possible in case he dies. Mummy and me didn't really speak during the journey.

"The bones in his legs and pelvis were shattered, they weren't clean breaks.

"He had broken nearly every bone in his body. The spine looked intact but they still didn't know if he could walk.

"I just feel like it wasn't real. I was just listening and kept thinking 'I cant lose him, I didn't get to say goodbye'. It was like a bad dream."

The silent, round-the-clock family vigil at Peter's bedside during those first few days saw Peter slowly displaying signs of progress, giving Erin, her brother Paul (23), and the rest of the family hope.

"I just remember holding daddy's hand in the ICU when he came out of the operation," added Erin.

"The next day he would open his eyes and look side-to-side, but he had a tube in his mouth to help him breathe so he couldn't say anything.

"On the third day one of the ICU nurses had given him a pen and paper to write. The first thing he wrote was my name on the paper. We are really close and have been my whole life.

"It was the first indication that he was still there with us. That was a really special moment."

Following six months of operations and extensive physiotherapy in Musgrave Park Hospital, Peter began to come out the other side of his trauma.

Still in significant pain from having to relearn to walk, he started to regain some independence.

While Erin admits there were some dark days during the recovery, she explained it was their "tight-knit family" which got them through it.

"I am so proud of him and how well he handled it, that he always had such a positive outlook and tried to push himself.

"Every sort of stage the physio suggested, he would always get there slightly quicker," she said.

"Once he moved to Musgrave for the physio, my daughter Amelia (2) was allowed to visit him and that was a massive goal in keeping his spirits up. He just dotes on her.

"We are all so grateful for the small things in life now and the fact that daddy is still here.

"He is amazing with my daughter. She calls him 'gaga'. I am so grateful she has that relationship.

"My daddy has always talked about when he had grandchildren. I just worried during that time that she was never going to know him. It broke my heart to imagine that."

With the life-saving role the Air Ambulance played in Peter's survival, Erin now says the family are forever grateful to them and want to raise more awareness of their important work.

"My boss at work chose them for our charity of the year. Between work and family, everybody is going to get involved. What they do is amazing," Erin added.

"The consultant we first spoke to at the hospital said that without the Air Ambulance intervening, it would have been very unlikely daddy would have made it.

"They are the difference between him being here and not."

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