A former firefighter who lost his leg in a traffic accident gave a moving talk to blood donors at Dunstable Community Fire Station, as he recalled how over 60 pints were needed to save his life.
Jason Hollamby, 48, who worked at Luton Fire Station, was forced to battle for his life on May 28, after a car struck his motorbike, leaving him at the roadside losing blood fast.
A total of 51 units were used to keep Jason alive during the air ambulance ride to Coventry University Hospital, and Jason is forever grateful to those who donated the lifesaving pints.
Now making a positive recovery, Jason visited Dunstable Community Fire Station on Thursday (January 11), sharing his story as the centre held its first ever blood donation session.
Jason said: “On May 28, I was riding my motorcycle on an A road between Raunds and Thrapston when a car on the other side of the road lost control and hit the side of the motorcycle. It took my leg off there and then. I was conscious through that, and conscious at the side of the road.
“Some people came to my assistance and we tried to stem the bleeding, keeping it to a level that meant I was still alive when the air ambulance arrived.
“The crew weren’t sure why I was still alive – they assumed it was probably the amount of adrenaline my body produced. My hip bone and femur were outside of my body. I was pretty convinced I was going to die...”
Jason was taken to hospital by the Warwickshire and Northamptonshire Air Ambulance, and a well as the loss of his right leg, the brave firefighter was suffering from a shattered pelvis, lacerated liver and three broken vertebrae. Once arriving at the hospital, he received a further 12 units of blood (O negative) during emergency surgery totalling 63 units of blood.
He remained in hospital for seven-and-a-half weeks, having operations on Tuesdays and Fridays for the first three. Jason is now attending The Limb Fitting Centre near Luton and Dunstable University Hospital and lives back at home in Toddington with his family, his wife Joanne and their two children.
He said: “I died on the hospital operating table and they put me into a induced coma for three days – I think because they were trying to stabilise me.
“The first three weeks after the accident were very sketchy to say the least because of the drugs.
“I knew my leg was gone - it’s one of those things, either you go: ‘this is horrendous’ or you can just get on with it.
“The centre have given me a prosthetic limb. I’m not brilliant, but I’m walking with one stick and in October I was driving again.”
On January 11, the opportunity arose for Jason to raise awareness about the importance of giving blood, as Dunstable Community Fire Station held its first donation day.
The event was held in partnership with NHS Blood and Transplant, and the station offered their venue free of charge.
Jason said: “The NHS pays for over 90 per cent of the venues it uses.
“I think the message I tried to get out the other day is that nobody goes out intending to have an accident or end up in hospital, or to have a disease that requires some considerable hospital treatment.
“We take it for granted that blood will be there.
“My father had always donated blood and I did for many years but stopped over time as I started getting more tattoos.
“I now hope to encourage others to donate, as you never know when you or a member of your family will require it.
“As a firefighter I had ‘serious trauma training’, which defnitely assisted me at the time of my accident, but I would also advise anyone to make sure they have a basic knowledge of first aid.”
Jason was based at Leighton Buzzard Fire Station between 2008 and 2013. He then moved to Luton Fire Station.
He has now taken ill-health retirement and is focussing on his rehabilitation, receiving physiotherapy adapting to life with a prosthetic leg and a wheelchair.
The brave firefighter wished to thank his family, friends and the fire service for all their support.
He concluded: “Everyone who has been involved from the offset has been brilliant and so helpful. I cannot fault the treatment I have had from anybody; it just shows how passionate all the ambulance services and NHS are about what they do.”
Chief fire officer Paul Fuller said: “The experience of one of our own firefighters brings in to stark relief the vital need for blood donations.
“The arrangement of providing fire stations for blood donation sessions is one way in which we are meeting our ambition to place our fire stations at the heart of the communities they serve. We hope it will result in the community seizing this opportunity on their doorstep.
“The service shares a common goal with NHSBT – to save lives and we’re delighted that our station can be used to help donors save lives and we intend more donor sessions to be announced in the coming months.”
Ian Trenholm, chief executive of NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “We are really pleased to be working with Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service to create a new place to give blood. Dunstable Fire Station is opening its doors to us to enable local people to donate easily. This new, free venue helps keep costs as low as possible for the wider NHS.
“Our life saving donors give their time and their donations for free. We are seeking partners who will do the same, and let us use their venues at no cost. Most people don’t realise that every year we spend around £4m on venue hire for blood donation sessions, equivalent to a few pounds on every donation.
“Each blood donation session has a potential to save around 300 lives and we look forward to seeing new and regular donors at our next session in Dunstable Community Fire Station.
“We always welcome new donors and we particularly need more black blood donors. For multi-transfused patients to get the best treatment, they need blood which is as closely matched to their ethnicity as possible. However, currently only 1% of blood donors in England are black.”
If you would like to give blood, please visit: www.blood.co.uk/ or call 0300 123 23 23 to make an appointment.