Newlyweds from Chester who were both airlifted to hospital after suffering serious injuries from a car collision last May have celebrated their big day in style at Highfield Hall in Mold.
Jess, 26, and Joe Mann, 28, were tragically hit by a car while traveling through Machynlleth on their way to join Joe’s family for a holiday in Pembrokeshire. Jess was driving when another car hit the car in front and span across the road, hitting their car.
The Wales Air Ambulance quickly arrived to the roadside within minutes and Jess and Joe were taken in separate helicopters to Royal Stoke University Hospital.
The couple decided not to have a gift list for their wedding, and instead asked friends and family to make a donation to the Wales Air Ambulance to help raise funds to provide emergency cover for others facing life threatening illness or injuries across Wales.
Jess recalls what happened: “I was conscious the whole time. Joe got out of the car but didn’t realise he had internal bleeding. I couldn’t move. I looked down and saw my leg was broken.
“Amazingly, the Wales Air Ambulance arrived in 16 minutes. Because we were in the middle of nowhere, an ambulance would not have got there in time to take us to hospital by road. It would have been too late.
“The Wales Air Ambulance were incredible. They made me feel safe straightaway. The doctor spoke to me the whole time and told me what was going on. I was so frightened but one of the members of the team calmed me down almost straightaway. I reached my hand out and she held it while doing a million other things at the same time. I even had a blood transfusion on board – amazing when you see there’s not much space in the helicopter, but they have all the equipment they need.”
Jess suffered a fractured femur so her leg was put into a splint and the next day she had a five-hour operation to insert a metal nail to her leg to fix the break.
Joe experienced internal bleeding and needed emergency surgery to have a part of his bowel removed. He also had a fractured spine.
Jess said: “When I arrived at the hospital, I was taken to the Emergency Assessment Unit and the Wales Air Ambulance crew told the hospital doctors what had happened. They then told me that Joe was being taken into theatre and asked if they wanted me to be taken to him so I could say goodbye.”
Joe remembers what happened: “The doctors were waiting to take me in so we didn’t have very long. It was only at that moment I realised how serious the situation was. I was worried about Jess and kept asking myself how she would cope. It was a pretty horrible situation and no-one should have to go through that.
“I stayed in hospital for nine days after my operation and was then allowed home to recover. Both Jess and I moved in with our parents as we weren’t able to do much and couldn’t look after each other very well.
“Days later I was still in a great deal of pain in my tummy and I couldn’t eat or drink anything. My parents took me back to hospital as things weren’t right.
“It was then they discovered I had a serious infection caused by a blockage in my bowel and I needed treatment straightaway. My stomach was drained through a tube which was a really painful and unpleasant experience. I was given strong antibiotics and spent the next eight days recovering in hospital. I’m thankfully much, much better now and I’m able to eat and drink as normal.”
Jess said: “We didn’t have any of our belongings with us when we arrived at the hospital, our bags were all still in the car, so no-one knew who we were for a while. Our families were contacted and both my parents and Joe’s parents came to the hospital. As Joe’s parents were in Pembrokeshire, it took them over four hours to get to us.
“We had our dog, Mia, with us in the car too. Luckily she was fine. One of the police officers took her home and looked after her overnight while we were in hospital. We had no idea at the time.
“Joe and I were in separate parts of the hospital which was really hard as I had to rely on other people to tell me how he was doing. My family and Joe’s family kept me updated on his recovery but I think they sheltered me at the beginning as not to worry me and help me get better.
“I still have the photo of when we were finally allowed to see each other after Joe was well enough following his surgery. I was taken by wheelchair to his ward and I think we both just fell asleep!”
Four months post-surgery Jess needed to have a second operation where her leg was broken and reset because her knee was rotating inwards. After a three-day stay at Stoke Hospital she was allowed home. Jess now has weekly physio sessions and came off crutches in January after using them for six months.
Before the accident, Jess was a dance teacher, taking classes for primary school children during lunchtimes and after-school clubs. She also takes adult fitness classes in Chester. Because of her injuries, Jess has moved into teaching drama classes until her knee is strong enough to return to teaching dance.
She is slowly learning to walk without support, and is building up the distance she can walk on her own. She said; “It’s really disheartening as there are things I just can’t do. I had to learn to walk again which was a real challenge for me.
“Technically my leg is still broken as the bones haven’t healed yet. I still need to stop to rest often and it can be painful after being on my feet for a while. I’m getting stronger though.”
Jess really looked forward to walking down the aisle at her wedding and being surrounded by her close family and friends. She wore a pair of lacy pearl coloured trainers with her dress for most of the day, but wore the gold heels she originally planned to wear on her wedding day to walk down the aisle.
She continued: “Throughout all of this, the wedding has really kept us going. Through all that has happened, Joe was certain he didn’t want to move the date back.
“We’ve had great support from our families and friends around us. It was a very emotional day with lots of special references to the journey we’ve been on to get here.
“We can’t thank the Wales Air Ambulance enough for everything they did to help us. Instead of a gift list, we’ve set up a Just Giving page for the charity. They rely solely on donations so it’s our way of being able to give something back to them and say thank you for everything they did.
“My sister created a board with photos and information about Wales Air Ambulance which will be put up on our wedding day, and she also sourced a special bride and groom Wales Air Ambulance teddy bears – one with a veil and the other a bowtie!
“Staff at Wales Air Ambulance’s Welshpool base recorded a special video message for us too to play on the day which was really emotional. Everyone was in tears by the end!”
Joe said: “Jess and I had really different injuries and very different recoveries and in some ways it doesn’t feel like it was very long ago we were both in a very serious condition in hospital. I can’t quite believe we were married on the date we originally set two years ago.”
On board the Wales Air Ambulance helicopters were medics Dr Stuart Gill, Dr Jennifer Dinsdale and Critical Care Practitioner John Adams who are part of an NHS service known as EMRTS Cymru. Also involved was Welsh Ambulance Service helicopter paramedic Ian Thomas. Both organisations supply medics to the Wales Air Ambulance.
The Wales Air Ambulance is the only official air ambulance for Wales. Its four helicopters cover 8,000 square miles of the country and over 800 miles of coastline to get to anyone in need within 20 minutes of receiving a call. The charity ensures its patients have the best chances of survival and early recovery by providing advanced treatments and taking them to hospital in the quickest possible time.
Jess and Joe have set up a Just Giving page for anyone who wishes to make a donation to the Wales Air Ambulance: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/JoeandJessWeddingRegistry2017
Angela Hughes, chief executive of Wales Air Ambulance, said: “Jess and Joe are an amazing couple who have been through a very tough time. I want to pass on my warmest congratulations to them both for getting married on what must have been a very special day for them and their families.
“Jess and Joe came to see us when they were home from hospital and it was incredible to meet them and see how well they had recovered from such a traumatic experience.
“We’re really proud to be the only air ambulance service serving Wales and the work we do would not be possible without fundraising and donations. We cover every corner of Wales and can reach anyone in danger within minutes, treating them at the scene and transporting them safely and quickly to the appropriate hospital.”
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