AN air ambulance doctor has praised the “incredible” resilience of a North Tyneside teenager who survived horrific injuries when he fell off a cliff edge.
Dr Chris Smith of the Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS) said Leighton Alexander, now 15, was in the ten per cent of the most severely injured patients the charity sees every year.
He added: “These patients would normally die with the injury profile that they have, so he was incredibly lucky to survive.”
Leighton, from Backworth, North Tyneside, slipped and fell from a cliff edge at Cullercoats Bay and landed on concrete sea defences on July 18, 2016.
Leighton’s father, Mark Bainbridge, 37, said: “Leighton and his mates saw some guys cliff jumping and went over there to go watch them. They approached a fence and Leighton’s mate jumped over first, and then Leighton went over and slipped causing him to fall straight down.
“I’d just got in from work when I heard the news, but I thought he’d just hurt his leg or his arm. I went down and spoke to the fire brigade who were there, and was told that it was more serious than I thought.
“I saw him at the bottom of the cliff, and the air ambulance medics were giving him a blood transfusion and then putting him into an induced coma, which I know that without that he would have died.”
Leighton suffered five fractures in his skull, a collapsed lung, broken leg, collar bone, pelvis and five ribs – all on his right side, as well as a couple of fractured vertebra.
He was treated on scene by GNAAS and the North East Ambulance Service before he was flown to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle where he arrived in a serious but stable condition.
The father-of-two said: “We didn’t think he would survive. Leighton was in an induced coma for five days and when he woke up we didn’t know what state he’d be in. We thought he might not be able to walk or talk again.
“He left hospital 15 days later and his recovery was remarkable. He’s lost 90 per cent of his hearing in his right ear, and has pins in his femur, but when you look at him you wouldn’t know what he’s been through.”
Leighton played football for Cullercoats FC before the incident, and managed to return to the pitch at the start of 2017 and play the final few games of the season. He was also the recipient of the Cullercoats FC Clubman Trophy and the Sports Person of the Year Award.
His father has since completed the Great North Run with one of the football coaches and the chairman of Cullercoats FC, raising more than £1,300 for GNAAS.
Dr Smith said that the ability to administer a blood transfusion was crucial in Leighton’s survival.
He added: “We were one of the first air ambulances to carry blood and this perfectly demonstrates why we made that step. I can’t be sure he would have made it to hospital without the blood.”
GNAAS relies on public donations to keep flying. Last year the charity needed to raise £5.1m. To find out how you can help, please visit www.gnaas.com or call 01325-487263.