In a state of adrenaline-fuelled shock and confusion after being viciously stabbed in the neck, Akai Douglas heard a voice inside that gave him strength.
Despite bleeding heavily from the wound and fleetingly thinking his time was up, the father-of-two said he had an out-of-body experience before hearing “it’s not your time to die” from a guiding voice in his head.
It jolted him into action and, incredibly, he found the determination to drive himself to Nottingham’s Queen’s Medical Centre, where astonished A&E staff rushed him to the operating theatre and spent the next five hours giving him life-saving surgery.
Akai has since used his remarkable experience to help inform national Government strategy on serious violence as well as preventing young people becoming involved in knife crime through voluntary mentoring and public speaking.
He has also offered to become a lived-experience volunteer, helping to shape the provision of support services for victims of crime through Nottinghamshire Victim CARE, which is commissioned by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Nottinghamshire.
Speaking during Operation Sceptre – a week-long national knife crime campaign - the 28-year-old joiner said he felt lucky to be alive after being stabbed and the traumatic experience had left him with a burning desire to have a positive impact on other people’s lives.
The incident happened when he was confronted by a man who snatched his car keys from him, shortly after he pulled up at The Meadows shopping precinct on 5 April 2018.
Akai grabbed the keys back but in an instant, he had a knife plunged into his neck, severing his left vocal cord and leaving him with a life-threatening injury.
“I was in shock. It was in my neck. I couldn’t talk and it was confusion. Your life definitely does flash before your eyes. I had an out-of-body experience,” he said.
“I ran to the top of the car park and that’s when it started to kick in that I had been stabbed and I could die. But it was like someone almost took over. A voice in my head said ‘it’s not your day to die’.
“I was bleeding out of my neck but something gave me the power to get back in my car and drive myself to the hospital. I attended A&E and they put me in a bed and looked at me in awe as if to say you shouldn’t still be here with an injury like that. They operated on me and saved my life.
“Looking back it was an overwhelming experience. But I do believe I’m here for the greater good.”
That greater good has led Akai to talk about his experiences at the Houses of Parliament at an All-Party Parliamentary Group, as well as speaking at a youth violence conference with the then-Prime Minister Theresa May at 10 Downing Street.
He is also an ambassador with Redthread, a charity part-funded by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner which works alongside the health service in hospital settings, including the Queen’s Medical Centre, supporting victims of youth violence.
Akai, of The Meadows, is talking to the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Nottinghamshire about how the Nottinghamshire Victim CARE could be improved in future.
He said that while there were arrests in connection with his stabbing, no one was ever charged due to a lack of evidence.
Akai added that he believed his insight could help improve the service that victims receive.
Nottinghamshire Victim Care is a free service available to victims of crime regardless of whether they have reported it to the police.
Police and Crime Commissioner Caroline Henry said she wanted to use the insight of lived-experience volunteers to help her Office to commission a victim support service that will be designed by victims, for victims.
“Akai is a truly remarkable young man and it is amazing that he survived to tell his story,” she said.
“It is just as remarkable to me that rather than letting it affect him in a negative way, he is inspired by it to make a positive difference to many other people’s lives.
“His story is a real reminder during this Operation Sceptre campaign week that knife crime can have serious consequences and we must all step up to help educate young people that carrying a knife is never the answer.
“Nottinghamshire Police and partner agencies work hard all year round to tackle knife crime but Operation Sceptre is a great way to put the spotlight on some of this work and to raise awareness.
“We are still looking for more people with lived experience of crime to help us improve the service victims of crime receive. It doesn’t matter what the crime is. If you have been affected by crime and you want to help change how victims are supported, please get in touch.”
· If you have lived experience as a victim of crime and want to help shape future service provision, please contact the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner on 0115 844 5998.
· If you are a victim of crime and are in need of support in any way, please contact Victim CARE on Freephone 0800 304 7575.
· For more information about Nottinghamshire Victim CARE, visit nottsvictimcare.org.uk