Milana Tannous, a mother of two and W. Salamoon & Sons’ brand ambassador, had a pre-existing relationship with London’s Air Ambulance. Then a near fatal fall in 2022 only furthered her drive to support the charity and appreciate life’s gifts

Words: Charlotte Pasha

Philanthropy has always been important to Milana Tannous. In 2019, her friend Julia Leal Hartogs – chairwoman of London’s Air Ambulance – invited her to the charity’s gala event with Prince William in attendance in his role as patron. Impressed, she was keen to lend her support.

“A regular ambulance will transport you from an accident to hospital and, in some cases, it may not reach the hospital in time,” Milana says. “London’s Air Ambulance is an emergency service that comes to the site of an accident and performs life-saving missions, on the ground.”

London’s Air Ambulance has teams of surgeons, paramedics and anaesthetists, who are able to perform on-site surgeries and blood transfusions. The service, which despite its name uses rapid response vehicles as well as two helicopters, is available to anyone: Milana explains that it has a control tower where it listens to all 999 calls and filters in to the most life-threatening.

It serves a vital role, but as a charity it is wholly reliant on private donations. “I realised it’s a service we always want to maintain and I was happy to help raise awareness and funds,” Milana says. “So for the 2022 gala, I was part of a wonderful committee that was responsible for the venue selection, auction prizes, floral decoration and so on. The event raised in excess of £1 million.”

That gala took place in March 2022. Despite all her planning, Milana was unable to attend. Just two months earlier, on January 17, she suffered a life-changing injury – accidentally falling more than 25 metres from a London terrace in the dark. “When I try to comprehend it, I find it incredible I’m alive and I’m so grateful,”

she says. “I landed on concrete and have no idea how I survived. London’s Air Ambulance saved me on site. It is just incredible that I was part of the committee before.”

Within 10 minutes of someone calling 999, London’s Air Ambulance was there. She was told that fortuitously, the ambulance happened to be patrolling near the site of the accident.

When the team found her, she was barely alive: they couldn’t record her blood pressure and her heart rate was twice the normal rate. What followed was 10 months in hospital, starting at St Mary’s and ending at the rehab centre at Stoke Mandeville National Spinal Injuries Centre, where the flame for the Paralympics starts.

There was an induced coma, multiple operations and total agony. “Nothing seemed real or clear, it was like a nightmare,” Milana says. “I couldn’t speak because of the tubes, and every small step in recovery – removing a tube, sipping water, finally sitting up – was a huge victory.” Getting out of hospital in time for Christmas 2022 was her goal. She was out by November that year.

Perhaps one of the most astounding things is how positive Milana is, in spite of the trauma she endured. “I got through thanks to my love for life, deep resilience and unconditional love from my family. There were life-threatening complications along the way but I have such an amazing family.”

After time spent adjusting physically and emotionally to her new life at home, re-engaging socially and spending time with her two children, she astonished her doctors. Despite being in a wheelchair, she managed to enjoy skiing in Courchevel last year on a specially adapted luge seat, and she has just given a speech at the London’s Air Ambulance gala at Raffles London at The OWO, which raised in excess of £1.3 million. She did so not only looking fabulous and sparkling in W. Salamoon jewels, but standing up, thanks to serious willpower, practice and an amazing contraption. “It is not what happens to you that defines you, but how you respond to it,” she says. “Everyone has their own challenges in life. I think if we hold the mindset to still be grateful for what we have rather than what we’ve lost, we have a better chance to be happy. It was the only mindset to get me out of the hospital.”

We’re sitting in the beautiful home of Milana’s sister, Natacha, fellow W. Salamoon brand ambassador and best friend. “When life throws unexpected challenges, of course I had my husband and young children as a purpose, but with my sister by my side it truly made a difference. It’s comforting to know you can rely on someone unconditionally,” Milana says.

Despite everything, Milana feels like a beacon of light. She says her experience has served to reinforce her enormous belief in the incredible work that London’s Air Ambulance does. It’s hard to disagree.