9 Apr 2024

Sarah de Lagarde

On 30 September 2022, on her way home from a late night at work, Sarah slipped and fell between the platform gap and the door to an underground train at High Barnet. With no one having witnessed the fall, the train departed and another one arrived. Sarah was left bleeding on the tracks, severely injured.

“I remember screaming out for help, but no one responded. Mentally, I ended up accepting there was a high chance I was going to die on those tracks,” said Sarah. “But then I thought about my children and I knew I owed it to them to come home.”

Sarah was on the tracks for 15 minutes before the alarm was raised. Someone struck by a train is an immediate dispatch for London’s Air Ambulance’s advanced trauma team, hence our crew was dispatched within two minutes of the 999 call.

On the team’s arrival at the station, the London Fire Brigade (LFB), Network Rail staff and the police were already there with Sarah and the power to the tracks had been turned off. From the platform, the severity of Sarah’s injuries was obvious. She was awake and talking – which on its own was surprising given what had happened – and the team were able to see that Sarah had a near complete amputation of her arm and a complete amputation to her leg. The immediate priority was therefore to extricate her from under the train as it is impossible to treat someone in that very confined space.

Kevin Cuddon, London’s Air Ambulance’s paramedic and one of the individuals who attended to Sarah, said:

"Sarah was trapped in a very awkward position so I crawled under the train to help the London Fire Brigade get her out. Together we had to carry her about 30m under the train and put her on a device to lift her up to the platform. She was really quiet, pale and had lost some blood.”

Upon extrication to the platform, the team worked with the London Ambulance Service (LAS) paramedics to quickly treat Sarah. They sedated her to enable them to manage and dress the wounds to her limbs. A tourniquet had already been applied to her leg by the LFB and another was applied to her arm. Sarah was then carried to a waiting ambulance and while transported to hospital had antibiotics and more painkillers administered.

“I remember being at The Royal London Hospital at 03:00, going into theatre. I was asked to sign a consent form – with my non-dominant hand – to give my permission to have my limbs amputated,” said Sarah. “I also asked for someone to charge my phone so I could call my husband.

“I needed to tell him I had been run over by not one, but two trains.”

Unfortunately, Sarah had to undergo surgery to have both her right arm and leg fully amputated.

“That was a very horrible way to wake up – going from able bodied to severely disabled for the rest of my life. I was panicked and scared. I thought I would never walk again.

Sarah in rehab for her prosthetic“But at the same time, I was so grateful to be alive and I was quite strong willed. When I first met my children again, I promised them that I would be out of hospital before Christmas and that I would walk again.”

Sarah then began a very long and hard road to recovery. “I endured all of the pain – both emotional and physical – that came with rehab.”

During rehab at the amputee unit in Lambeth, Sarah was fitted with a prosthetic leg and it was here she learned to walk again.

“That was the hardest thing I have ever done – remaining positive and focused despite all of the setbacks and despair that you encounter.”

While Sarah concentrated on walking with the lower limb prosthetic, her husband undertook an immense fundraising challenge – raising money for a state-of-the-art arm prosthetic. After six months of their appeal, they were successful in raising the £250,000 required for the AI-powered, robotic, bionic arm.

Sarah with her AI-powered bionic arm“I am forever grateful to everyone who donated,” said Sarah. “I use this arm every day.”

Now, over a year on since the accident, Sarah is back living at home with her family and back to work. “Going back to work was good, it gave me a sense of purpose again and helped me reclaim some of myself.

“Now, I want to do what I can to help people understand what an essential service London’s Air Ambulance Charity is.”

In September 2023, Sarah nominated the crew from London’s Air Ambulance who attended to her  that night for The Sun’s Who Cares Wins 999 hero award. At the awards ceremony hosted by Davina McCall and attended by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, it was announced that the team, Dr Benjamin Marriage and Paramedics Kevin Cuddon and Chris Doyle had won! You can read more about the award here.

Sarah, Kevin and Benjamin receiving the award“That evening was brilliant,” said Sarah. “It was just a small gesture to say thank you to the team, but also to draw attention to these jobs themselves. We need to inspire the younger generation to follow in these heroes’ footsteps.”

Kevin Cuddon said: “Sarah is the true hero. She is here, living life, enjoying life and not only that, she has been busy raising awareness for London’s Air Ambulance Charity.”

We’re so glad to see Sarah making such a miraculous recovery and wish her and her family all the best.

“My office is in Bishopsgate and from our windows we can see The Royal London Hospital with the helipad on the top. We often comment when we see the helicopter take off and say a little prayer for the soul who needs the team. I never once thought I would be one of those souls.

“I am eternally grateful to everyone who helped me that day, including the charity who helped lift my spirits and reassured me and my family that I was still going to have a life.

“Mindset is 90 per cent of your recovery. So, find the will to get better and stay positive. You are stronger than you think.”

More Patient Stories

James Bascoe-Smith’s story

In February 2021, 17-year-old James was testing out his mother’s push bike when masked men attacked…

Jordan's story

On 24 February 2020, cycling his usual Monday morning commute to work, Jordan was involved in a…

Steve's story

On New Year’s Day 2021, Clare set off from her home in Surrey on a walk. It was a grey, misty…

London, we need you. Time is running out to replace your life-saving helicopters.
Time is running out to replace your life-saving helicopters.