11 Sep 2023
In February 2015, Cristiana had been in London for one month after she’d moved to the UK from her home in Romania. On her way to work, mid-afternoon, her life changed forever.
While crossing the road in Stamford Hill, Cristiana was run over by a dumper truck.
“All I remember of that day, is that it was a rainy one,” said Cristiana.
Partially stuck underneath the vehicle, the severity of Cristiana’s situation meant that London’s Air Ambulance’s advanced trauma team was immediately dispatched to her side.
On arrival, the crew found Cristiana barely alive. She was completely unconscious, extremely pale, with a very fast heart rate and unrecordable blood pressure. On assessment, the team suspected that Cristiana had suffered life-threatening pelvic fractures as well as possible intra-abdominal bleeding. She had also sustained a devastating crushed and degloving injury to her left lower leg.
With the assistance of London Ambulance Service (LAS) paramedics, the team administered sedation to Cristiana in order to enable them to humanely handle her without causing her any further distress. The team then started a blood transfusion as it was clear she had lost a lot of blood, while a pelvic binder was applied. They then performed a general anaesthetic and connected Cristiana to a breathing machine. Her leg injuries were dressed and antibiotics and a drug to help with blood clotting were administered. A ‘Code Red’ declaration was then made to the nearest major trauma centre before Cristiana was taken there. A code red is a pre-alert call to the nearest receiving major trauma centre to warn them of the imminent arrival of a severely bleeding patient. This allows the hospital teams to prepare to receive the patient.
After multiple surgeries, Cristiana remained in hospital in a coma for two and a half months.
“I don’t remember a specific moment when I woke up – I woke up step by step. But I remember knowing my mum was there.” Cristiana’s mother had travelled from Romania to London as soon as she heard of the accident and remained by her side throughout Cristiana’s stay in hospital, and her lengthy recovery.
“I remember waking up one day, looking down at the bed and realising one of my legs under the covers was a lot shorter than the other… I asked mum what was happening,” said Cristiana.
Cristiana’s mum had to explain that the surgeons had had to remove the lower part of her leg to ensure her survival: her leg had been amputated.
“It was awful. I cried all day and the clinicians had to give me sedation to calm me down. I was so nervous and couldn’t stop crying. I don’t think I fully understood the situation at the time.”
Cristiana remained in hospital until September, when she was discharged and returned home to Romania.
“It has been a long and hard road. It was very mentally tough to come to terms with what had happened and there were a few breakdowns along the way,” said Cristiana. “But now, I feel so good. I have accepted myself.”
One year after the accident, Cristiana tried out a prosthetic leg but found it did not work for her and decided to use a wheelchair for mobility.
Three years ago – in 2020 – Cristiana tried a different prosthetic and found it to work perfectly. “I walk everyday now! I love it!”
As well as walking daily, Cristiana is part of a wheelchair basketball team.
“Sometimes some people still look at me a little strangely because I am a little bit different to them. But in the basketball team we all have differences, so it feels like home, like a community. I understand them and they understand me.”
Living her life to the full in Romania, recently graduating from college with a diploma in accounting, Cristiana has made an incredible recovery. She hopes her story will be able to help someone else in the future.
“I want to tell anyone else in a difficult situation like mine, not to give up. You will get better every day. It is important to accept yourself, no matter what. Be good to yourself and with the passing of time, it will get better.”
While she was in hospital, our Patient Liaison Nurse introduced Cristiana to Vicky, who had also had her lower limb amputated following a road traffic collision.
“It was amazing to be introduced to someone who had been through a similar situation to me,” said Cristiana. “She is a good friend now and we will always be connected.” You can listen to Vicky’s story here on our Picking up the pieces podcast.
We are so glad to see Cristiana making an amazing recovery and look forward to hearing of her first job in accountancy.
“I didn’t know you were a charity until after my accident. I can’t believe it – you help so many people.”
London’s Air Ambulance is a charity, with 96 per cent of its funding coming from public support. To continue saving lives in London, we need your support.