A man who survived multiple organ failure and losing both legs after a car crash sent an emotional 'last goodbye' to his wife and son as he lay in the wreckage.
Chef Nick Copson, 47, found his mobile phone to record the 12-second message to his loving wife Nikki, 52, and their son Connor, 21.
He suffered catastrophic leg injuries, broken ribs, shattered vertebrae and had his spinal cord severed in the head on collision with a Kia Venga as he made his way to work in September 2018 in his wife's Vauxhall Astra.
Helicopter medics and police who arrived at the scene near his Co Durham home were convinced he would not survive - with Nikki and Connor taken to James Cook Hospital in Middlesbrough by emergency vehicle.
Nikki was on the way to a GP appointment when she had a 'sick feeling' on hearing a radio r
eport of the accident, and called to hear a police officer's voice answer her husband's mobile.
Yet Nick somehow found the strength to tell his family how much he loved them in what he thought would be his 'last chance' to say goodbye.
"When the police found the phone, they informed Nikki that I had left a message for her," said Nick,who was a chef at the police training college in Crook, Co Durham.
"I knew that I might not make it and I just thought 'I cannot leave the planet without saying goodbye'. I think anyone would do that given the chance - I just had to get a message to them."
Nick had to be placed in an induced coma as he clung onto life following the collision.
He has shown extraordinary courage as he faced paralysis from the chest down due to his spinal injuries, Sepsis and severe lung damage during 20 months in hospital, then a care facility - with Nikki constantly by his side.
"It was very emotional listening to the message" said Nick, an award winning chef who was recognised by Jamie Oliver for his work on health eating with school children. "It was quite harrowing. I thought 'wow',
I cannot believe I did that."
Nikki, whose entire life was turned 'upside down' in the space of one phone call on the day of the crash, added: "It was quite horrific.
"I knew it was bad when I heard a female police officer answering my husband's phone.
"I just said 'Is he dead?'. She explained he had been in a serious head on car accident and he had been airlifted to hospital and they would get someone to take me there. I knew then how serious it was."
She added: "I was blue lighted there and they told me that he had severe spinal injuries and catastrophic leg injuries and he was in intensive care for 12 weeks.
"He lost one leg then a month later the other one and he had sepsis, multiple organ failure, critical lung injuries.
"He was as close to death as you can be - without being dead. His blood pressure was so low after the accident, they just did not think he was going to make it."
The Copsons, whose new home will be a specially adapted bungalow in Butterknowle, Co Durham, are both raising funds to say thank you to the Great North Air Ambulance personnel who saved Nick's life.
One of them, air ambulance paramedic Marcus Johnson said: “Having seen his leg injuries, we had expected him to make more of a fuss when he was removed from the car.
"But he did not flinch which indicated either a serious brain injury or a major spinal injury.”
Nick had severed his spinal cord, shattered two vertebrae and had multiple compound fractures to his right leg. He broke his ribs and collarbone, punctured both lungs with the right lung bleeding out and had a major bleed from an artery.
Six days after the crash, he underwent a major operation on his spine, during which medics had to save him three times. He went on to overcome a fungal blood infection, kidney dialysis, and blood clots.
He finally left hospital in October 2019 and moved into a rehabilitation care home to continue his recovery. Nick had Covid-19, and Nikki also showed symptoms.
She said: "We cannot thank the air ambulance and intensive care staff enough, they know how fantastic we think they are. They saved his life."
Nick, stepdad to Christopher, 31, and Stephen, 30, added: “Coming home is a massive step. It’s a huge milestone for me as it means my family can spend more time with me as well as living a new normal life. My wife has and continues to be my rock, always by my side every day."
They will both be cycling 100 miles, Nikki on her exercise bike, and Nick on his hand bike, to raise money for GNAAS.