SOUTHAMPTON General Hospital microbiologist Zoe Gunning was used to hearing the helicopter land at her work.

But the 33-year-old never imagined that she would be one of the 350 critically ill patients flown into Southampton’s major trauma centre every year and that her work colleagues would help to save her life.

Zoe was left fighting for life after a horror crash when a burst tyre sent her car careering off the M3 north of Winchester.

Witnesses quickly realised that she was seriously injured and contacted the emergency services.

The air ambulance was scrambled and she was flown to the hospital, where she has worked for 12 years.

Zoe, from Chandler’s Ford, said: “You get used to hearing the helicopter come in when you work here – but never dream that one day you’ll be making that journey.

“I have absolutely no memory of the crash or the three weeks following it but have been told by the police that my back tyre burst, causing me to lose control of my car and veer off the road, rolling several times before landing in a ditch.”

She was immediately attended by the major trauma team and found to have a serious head injury, a fractured pelvis and numerous broken ribs.

Doctors were very concerned about damage to her brain so she was transferred to the neuro intensive care unit.

Dr Andy Eynon, director of major trauma and consultant intensivist, said: “Zoe had suffered a significant head injury and we were very concerned about her.

“The trauma CT scan showed several bleeds in the brain, which extended into the fluidfilled spaces.”

After 72 hours Zoe was transferred out of intensive care.

More than two weeks later she was moved to Victoria House, a specialist rehabilitation unit on the hospital site, to start her recovery.

Although her memories of before the accident were slowly returning, the effects of the brain injury were clear to see.

Zoe had to re-learn simple tasks like making a cup of tea and dressing herself.

She also had problems with her short-term memory, muscle strength and her eyesight was severely affected.

With the support of her family and friends, Zoe was able to return home to husband Matt, 33, a teacher in Winchester, and daughters Evelynne, five, and Isla, two, a month later and continue her recovery.

After six months Zoe was able to drive and soon after began a phased return to work and is now back full-time.

“Being back at work has been the best therapy for me; it has boosted my confidence no end and has helped me to feel normal again,” said Zoe.

“Today I am pretty much back to my old self. I suffer from double vision as a result of the accident, which is a bit frustrating when you’re looking down microscopes all day. I also get headaches and have weakness down my right-hand side.”

She added: “I’m prouder than ever to work here and will forever be indebted to everyone who has helped me get back to being me. It has been a long journey and a tough time for my family, but I could not be more thankful for the life I now have.”