Chris Sole told The Resident: “It was a miracle, so I was over the moon when I found out I would be meeting them and I was a little bit emotional when I did.”
Now Mr Sole and his family are appealing for the government to support the life-saving charity, which faces a constant battle to raise money to keep the helicopters flying.
The Southwater Co-op worker, who now volunteers for West Chiltington Animal Sanctuary, suffered multiple skull fractures when his bicycle was involved in a collision with a car in Blackbridge Lane, Horsham, last September.
Doctor Magnus Nelson and critical care paramedic David Wright carried out procedures at the scene of the crash rather than in hospital, where they are usually performed. They also put Mr Sole into an induced coma to prevent secondary brain damage.
Mr Wright said: “The earlier the treatment can be given, the better the chance of recovery. This is the benefit of the helicopters. It was clear that he’d had a significant head injury. He needed the skills of the doctor to manage his condition. We gave Chris an anaesthetic which protects his brain, then we took him to St George’s Hospital in London.”
After two life-saving operations at St George’s, Mr Sole woke from his coma and was able to recognise family and friends. He was transferred to the Princess Royal Hospital, Haywards Heath, and treated by the Kerwin Court Brain Injury Rehabilitation Trust, Five Oaks Road, Horsham, before being allowed home in April.
Now 37, Mr Sole was joined at the Air Ambulance base, Dunsfold Aerodrome, by parents Stewart and Anita, stepmother Ann and sister Janine, who also met Mr Wright and pilot Pete Driver.
Anita Sole said: “Chris and his family are extremely grateful for the fantastic care provided by Kent, Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance, without which Chris would not be here today. It’s a fantastic job and they should be supported by the government so they can have more helicopters and save more lives.”
Janine Sole said: “Minutes matter, especially in road accidents. They literally saved my brother’s life. He’s a walking miracle and he’s been through so much, thanks to these guys here.”
It costs about £5 million to keep both helicopters flying from their bases at Dunsfold and Marden, near Maidstone, but the charity receives no statutory government funding and relies almost entirely on public donations.
Mr Driver said: “If it wasn’t for the network of people raising money, we wouldn’t be here now. Most people don’t realise we’re charity-funded.”
For more information about the Air Ambulance, phone 01622 833833 or visit www.kssairambulance.org.uk