Peter Cottrell

On Mother’s Day, in March 2013, I was critically injured in a cycling accident in Westerham near Sevenoaks in Kent.

I was 48-years-old at the time and was out for a 30-mile Sunday ride which I did fairly regularly to keep fit. I was heading down Westerham Hill, which is the fastest part of the route and came off my bike. It was a hill I must have previously cycled down safely 200 times, at least.

Initially at the scene of the accident I was looked after by police officers who were very quick to arrive and by a ground ambulance crew. I’d injured my head and my chest and given the extent of my injuries, KSS were dispatched.

Their team cared for me and took me to major trauma centre at King’s College hospital, arriving within 16 minutes of take off. I then spent a month in King’s College Hospital and Princess Royal University hospitals, being looked after brilliantly by the staff at both places.

I’ve never known why my accident happened and even eight and a half years on, it’s never bothered me much that I don’t know. Within a couple of days of waking up in hospital I was thinking ‘The important thing is that I’m still alive; now I need to look forwards. I just need to recover and get back to my normal life.’

From that point my recovery has been slow but steady although I can still feel some of the side effects now. I fractured my skull going back from my right eyebrow and can still feel a strange numbness on that part of my head and sometimes an ache in my neck from the force of the impact.  I’ve been told it’s a sort of whiplash injury to the nerves at the top of my spine. I’m glad I was wearing a helmet at the time, which saved me from even worse injury.

My mental recovery has always been as important to me as my physical recovery. Over time I ticked things off like cycling again, going swimming, then getting back to work after four months.  Flying to Sweden to see my family there, was another really important milestone for me, which I did less than a year after my accident.

I know that all of this was only made possible because KSS were there for me that day.

After four years I decided I could take on a more significant physical challenge, so I entered the Hever Castle Triathlon to raise money for KSS. I’d done triathlons years before, but had really thought I’d hung up my wetsuit for good.

Getting through the training and completing the race proved that any aches and pains I might still have shouldn’t stop me from getting outside and taking on new challenges.

For a while afterwards, I was short of a good idea for what to do next, but that changed after an air ambulance event in 2018 where I spoke to other fundraisers.

That meant I was motivated to both visit the charity for the first time and come up with a new idea for fundraising.

I love the north Kent coast and after much thought I decided I’d try to walk solo, 100 miles from Botany Bay near Broadstairs to the Queen Elizabeth the Second bridge at the Dartford Crossing.

I’d never done any long-distance walking, but I wanted a challenge that would be testing enough raise interest with potential sponsors.

After a series of training walks, I decided that a reasonable plan would be to walk 25 miles a day for four days.

So in June 2019, with a good luck card from KSS in my rucksack, I started my walk on a sunny Monday morning at Botany Bay. Over four days I walked from there to my finishing point under the southern end of the QEII bridge near Dartford.

As I looked up at it, I was so pleased, not just because I’d raised money, but also because I’d had such an adventure doing something that I never would have contemplated without that motivation.

Since then, every moment of my walk is a brilliant memory and I must be the number one fan of that bridge. It’s surprising just how many places it can be seen from.  Sometimes from miles and miles away. I hope that before too long I’ll be able to come up with something else I’ll enjoy so much.

I’d say I still feel some effects from my accident but that was the point of my triathlon and walk – to challenge myself and make the most of my life and opportunities that come up. I’m 56-years-old now and know very well that people of all ages have different physical challenges they have to live with.

Peter and Ben at KSS’s Christmas carol concert in 2019
Peter after completing the Hever Castle Triathlon
By staying friends with KSS I’m looking forward and not back. I want to raise money to help people who end up in difficult circumstances like I did, to ensure that they get the same chance as me.

I plan to complete another sponsored walk in 2022 for KSS. I want to raise more money for them – not because KSS ever expect me to do anything for them, because I know they don’t. I want to do it because I enjoy it and got such a buzz out of doing my previous fundraising challenges. It’s a brilliant, really rewarding thing to do.

However strong we are, there can be times when we need lots of help from others to get through things. Not just from emergency services, but from those we love, our family and our friends.

Recently I’ve helped my mother to care for my father who passed away in October. I’m so grateful I was able to take part in looking after him towards the end of his life. If KSS hadn’t been there to care for me back in 2013, I wouldn’t have still been here to help my mum and dad.

Ben Macauley, KSS Paramedic: “I remember it was a cold spring day when we received the call that Peter had fallen from his bike and needed our critical care. Our team of a doctor, myself and one pilot (at the time we only flew with only one pilot but now we always fly with two), took off from Redhill Aerodrome. We arrived overhead the scene in under 10 minutes. I knew the area, and I knew Westerham Hill, and even with the limited information passed to us, it sounded serious.

We landed close to the scene, a landing classed as an ‘Alfa’ landing, which means we were less than 50m from the patient and could take all of our medical equipment from the aircraft and get the patient in under a minute. We found a small hole in the hedge which gave us access to the road from the field where we had landed.

Peter was still unconscious, he had a significant head injury, a fractured collar bone and likely fractures to ribs on his right side. His right lung had collapsed and he was starting to block his airway. We gave Peter a general anaesthetic at the roadside to protect his airway, control his breathing and try to stop his brain injury from getting worse. We worked hard to stabilise him, his right lung had completely collapsed so I cut a small hole in the right side of Peter’s chest which enabled me to re-inflate his collapsed lung which improved the situation, although Peter was now depending on us for everything, not least to breathe for him. We secured Peter on a rescue stretcher, carefully loaded him onto the helicopter and airlifted him to King’s College Hospital.

It’s now more than eight years since Peter’s accident and I’ve had the privilege of meeting him several times and even speaking with him at KSS’s Christmas carol concert in 2019. We were only able to care for Peter and thousands of other patients since then, thanks to the wonderful dedication and generosity of our supporters“.


Under the QEII bridge, the finish point for Peter's 25 miles a day for four days

Our patients are at the centre of what we do.

There is nothing more heart-warming for our team than when a former patient gets in touch and wants to visit us. If you, or a family member, has been a patient of ours and would like to get in touch, we would love to hear from you. 

Saving lives when every second counts

Shopping Cart
Scroll to Top