Phil Lawrence

Airlifted Date: 
1998
Airlifted From: 
Wadebridge
Nature of Incident: 
Fell through roof

Cassie Kemp’s dream wedding may never have been possible but for Cornwall Air Ambulance.

Cassie married partner Ashley Kemp over the summer and was walked down the aisle by her father Phil Lawrence, who was paralysed in an accident 16 years ago.

Cassie, who lives in Truro with husband Ashley, said: “Every girl wants their father to walk them down the aisle. For me, though, that would never have been possible without Cornwall Air Ambulance.

Cassie’s dad, Phil Lawrence, who lives in Trewoon, was working on a roof when he fell backwards through a skylight onto a concrete floor twenty feet below.

Cornwall Air Ambulance sped Phil to the Royal Cornwall Hospital at Treliske.

Phil had broken his neck in two places and his back in four places, as well as cracking 7 ribs and suffering many other serious injuries.

Surgeons initially thought Phil was paralysed from the chest down and his family believes the speed of the Cornwall Air Ambulance meant his paralysis was confined to his feet, with partial paralysis in the lower part of his body.

Cassie, who was 9 at the time, remembers the day vividly.

“We were having dinner when Mum got the call,” she remembers.

“Mum got us to make cards to give Dad to help him feel better. I remember really clearly drawing a picture of him sitting up in bend with his arm in a sling.

“When we got to hospital I saw Dad lying on a stretcher with a huge yellow block around his head. I couldn’t understand why he wasn’t sitting up in bed like in my picture.

“At nine years old, you just think your Dad is a superhero and I don’t think I realised just how badly injured he was.”

When Phil came round in intensive care, he recalls a surgeon telling him: “I’ve never spoken to anybody with your injuries before, Mr Lawrence. They’ve never lived.”

Phil says: “As I slowly got better, I kept asking the nurses if I would ever walk again. They would never look me in the eye when they answered. I think they were trying to keep my hope alive but they knew the chances were slim.

“I knew differently, though. The air ambulance got me to hospital and I wasn’t about to give up.”

After years of hospital treatment and physiotherapy, including a weekly walk around the Eden Project pit, Phil is now able to walk with the aid of crutches, which were specially decorated on the day of Cassie and Ashley’s wedding.

Phil said: “Because of the air ambulance I’ve been able to have a normal life with my children. I’ve seen them grow up, been able to be an ordinary Dad with them, culminating now in walking my beautiful daughter down the aisle at her wedding.

“Nobody will ever know what that means to us. Thank you, Cornwall Air Ambulance.”

Cassie added: “To me, Dad is a hero. He was a hero to me as I was growing up and he’s a hero to me now.

“Seeing what life has thrown at him and how he’s still kept his wonderful, cheeky personality is just so inspiring.

“16 years on from the accident, there he was walking me down the aisle, defying all the doctors.

“I’m just so incredibly proud of him and so unbelievably thankful to Cornwall Air Ambulance for letting us have our Dad and giving us all these special memories as a family.”