Ali's story, ten years on - Great Western Air Ambulance Charity
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Ali’s story, ten years on

Do you remember the story of our former patient Ali Layard? What was meant to be a nice trip along the canal on Easter Monday in 2012, turned into a family disaster. Ali was left fighting for his life following an accident with a canal boat propeller. At just nine years old he was told he would never walk unaided again.

Thankfully, Great Western Air Ambulance Charity’s (GWAAC) Critical Care Team was able to come to Ali’s aid that day. Their clinical expertise, care and support helped give Ali the best chance of survival.

Despite Ali being given the news he would never walk again, he has gone on to overcome so many hurdles; an experience Ali describes as, “So many negatives outweighed by even more positives.” And that just about sums up Ali’s incredible attitude and spirit for life.

Ali’s mum, Sophie says, “As a family we never really allowed Ali to think of himself as injured and he’s never dwelt on it. Ali hasn’t let his injury stop him.”

“Not many people would have got out of the wheelchair”

Getting tangled in the propeller caused terrible injuries to both legs. Ali not only lost his kneecap but also his left knee bending mechanism and 60% of his lower right leg. He had to undergo numerous lengthy operations including a muscle and soft tissue transplant to reconstruct his leg. 

The Critical Care Team, which included Specialist Paramedics in Critical Care, Vicki Brown and Pete Sadler, was called to the scene. Ali was stabilised and safely transported to Frenchay Hospital.

Through sheer grit and determination, Ali defied all odds. Sophie recalls the plastic surgeon saying to her, “Not many would have got out of the wheelchair, Sophie.” But Ali did so much more!

“It’s been a whole ten years since my life was changed forever”

Although Ali’s life changed that day, it didn’t stop him from embracing opportunities and living to the full. He has achieved many great accomplishments including playing international men’s cricket for England’s physical disability team. And at fifteen years old, he was the youngest ever capped player.

Ali has also been mentored by Ireland coach, Ben Smith, through a scholarship program offered by the Mintridge Foundation. Ali was awarded their highest accolade for his contribution to the program.

Outside of cricket, Ali is currently at Cardiff University reading Business Management BA (Hons). He also likes to surf, and DJ for friends.

Proud Mum, Sophie says, “And if you can believe it, he actually went snowboarding this year. How does someone with little left knee and no feeling in his lower right leg, snowboard? I am forever humbled by his optimism.”

Back in 2018 Ali and hid Dad, along with ex-GWAAC SPCC, Peter Sadler, put on their running shoes to take part in the Bristol 10K. They raised over £5,200 for GWAAC and finished in a time of one hour! But they didn’t stop there; over the last ten years they have continued to find ways to raise money in support of the charity, and together with friends and family they have raised a whopping £25,000 in total.

“Thank you” from Ali

It’s been a long and difficult road to recovery, but Ali’s determination and success reminds us all that we should never give up when times are hard.

On the ten-year anniversary of his accident, Ali had this to say about his journey:

“A whole ten years since my life was changed forever. So many negatives outweighed by even more positives. To GWAAC and the NHS, I would not be here writing this today if it wasn’t for you. Your work is spectacular, and it continues to inspire me every day. Every doctor, nurse, play team and physio that was involved with my recovery always made me feel so calm and gave me hope.”

Sophie says, “Always a shout out to Pete and Vicki for helping to save Ali’s life and to GWAAC for their endless support.”

Thank you to Sophie and Ali for sharing their story. If you’ve been helped by GWAAC and have been inspired to share your story, please do get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.