‘Knowing the family were there for me helped pull me through’

Jo-Anne Walker
Jo-Anne Walker
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Jo-Anne Walker was lucky to survive a horrific accident which tragically took the life of one of her passengers. Now her family and friends are raising money for the Air Ambulance which saved her. Christina Wimsey reports.

December 10, 2012 started off as any other day for Jo-Anne Walker.

Jo-Anne, a sales representative for a medical equipment company, from Sheffield had picked up two clients from the Blackpool area. She was driving them down the M6 to Leicester.

Jo-Anne, now 35, had no idea her world was about to change. She was approaching junction 16 when she was catapulted into the centre of a collision involving nine vehicles and 15 people.

“I heard a smashing sound, and in my rear view mirror I saw a cloud of dust with a lorry coming out of it. That’s the last thing I remember before coming around in the car.”

When she was coming around, Jo-Anne recalls: “I had the overwhelming feeling of not being in control, and tried to force myself awake so I could grab the steering wheel. When I opened my eyes I realised that I was trapped between the central pillar of the car, and the passenger seat. I couldn’t reach the steering wheel. There was glass everywhere – in my eyes, in my mouth and on my face.”

One of Jo-Anne’s clients, Alan Bullock, who was 54, had been in the passenger seat next to her.

“The car was crushed in around me and the front passenger seat was twisted so that Alan’s head was bent over in front of me. That was the worst bit, waiting for help to arrive. I remember stroking Alan’s head and telling him everything was going to be all right.

“I remember not being able to breathe and trying to pull myself up to get my breath. I don’t know how I managed to do that through the pain. I had 12 fractured ribs, some broken up to three times, a multiple punctured lung, a broken right clavicle and a fractured left clavicle.”

Jo-Anne was cut out of the car, by which time the Air Ambulance had already arrived. She was the first to be airlifted from the scene.

“I was taped to a backboard, in a considerable amount of pain, and trying to focus on breathing. It took the Ambulance about four minutes to get me to North Staffordshire University Hospital. But for their speed I could have died; my injuries were life threatening.

“I was told the day after the accident that Alan had been pronounced dead at the scene – I wasn’t told at the time because I was in an unstable condition. On hearing this I just broke down – it broke my heart. My other passenger had also been airlifted to the hospital with serious injuries, but thankfully he has now made a full recovery.”

Jo-Anne was in the high dependency ward for four days, in the cardio thoracic ward for another four days. She had to be given a lot of morphine for the pain. Fortunately Jo-Anne was able to spend Christmas at home with her family.

As a result of her injuries Jo-Anne has lost partial vision in one eye, but otherwise, physically, she has recovered. But she has been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder since the accident.

“I started having flashbacks straight after accident, and loud noises would set off anxiety attacks. It was like re-living it over and over again; seeing everything as clear as day. I still suffer from this, but treatment has helped.”

It took about a year for Jo-Anne to recover from the remainder of her physical injuries. “For a time my fiancé, Mark Crofts, and my parents effectively became my carers. I couldn’t do anything for myself, even things like cutting my food up. This actually made the family bond stronger, because we all went through it together. Knowing they were there pulled me through the worst of times; knowing they would do anything for me.”

Jo-Anne and Mark married on March 27 this year, and returned from their honeymoon in Mexico and Las Vegas on April 11.

“The wedding was the most beautiful day of my life, and I enjoyed every minute of it. It was one of those days you realise you are about to marry your best friend – your soul mate.”

Alan Walker, Jo-Anne’s father, said: “You don’t think this is going to happen to anyone around you, but it did. I was told the rescue services didn’t expect to find anyone alive inside Jo-Anne’s car. Having seen the wreck myself, I believe that for Jo-Anne and one of her passengers to have come out alive must have been an act of divine intervention.”

Such has been the impact on Jo-Anne’s friends and family they have been working hard on behalf of others who may need the Air Ambulance in the future.

At the weekend Alan, and Jo-Anne’s best friend, Beth Norton, set off from Helmsley to walk 108 miles of the Cleveland way in just seven days. They aim to raise as much money as possible for the North West Air Ambulance, which saved the life of Jo-Anne and one of her passengers.

If you would like to support them you can donate by via their Just Giving Page http://www.justgiving.com/alan-walker7.