This National Air Ambulance Week (7th – 13th September 2020), the North West Air Ambulance Charity (NWAA) is raising awareness of the lifesaving impact its service has had on patient lives across the North West.
From 1st September 2019 – 31st August 2020, the charity has completed 2,531 missions across the North West, including 790 in Lancashire. With three helicopters and 4 rapid response vehicles across its Barton and Blackpool air bases, the charity’s crew of highly skilled specialist doctors and helicopter emergency medical services (HEMS) paramedics can deliver enhanced medical care to the most critically ill and injured patients. In cases of serious incidents and accidents, their care can make a lifesaving difference to patients. Alex Rose is one such patient.
Alex, 24, Preston, was attended to by NWAAC in March 2019, whilst out on his motorbike riding between Slaidburn and Devil’s Bridge, Kirkby Lonsdale. Finding himself on a familiar road, Alex was going at a careful speed. However, coming up to a blind bend, his bike skidded on stones in the road – throwing the bike to one side and catapulting Alex into an iron fence in a nearby field and knocking him unconscious. When he awoke, he saw the helicopter descending.
The accident left him with 3 broken back bones, 6 broken ribs, a fractured sternum, bruised lungs and a painful gash along his arm. Two HEMS paramedics from NWAAC were able to stabilise Alex at the scene, to ensure no further damage was done – his broken back bones had missed his spinal cord by just 1mm. They administered pain relief before carefully airlifting Alex to the Royal Preston Hospital in ten minutes, for scans and further treatment. Alex was miraculously discharged 4 days later, despite his initial extensive injuries.
“Waking up and seeing the helicopter land was when I realised how serious a state I was in. I think the adrenaline was kicking in though, because I kept trying to get back on my bike. Even a slight movement risked even worse injuries and pain, and I’m so grateful the air ambulance was there to calm me down and treat me.
“Being in such a remote spot, which was difficult to reach by car, I’m sure I wouldn’t have recovered as quickly as I did without their care, they were amazing. They knew exactly how to handle me and get me the treatment I needed as quickly as possible. I don’t know whether I would be fighting fit today without the charity.”
In cases of serious trauma or illness, the crew are able to administer highly advanced interventions before reaching the hospital, such as anaesthesia, blood transfusion or intubation. It can make the difference between life and death for many patients.
As a charity funded operation, NWAAC must raise over £9.5m a year, relying on generous donations, fundraisers and volunteers to maintain its 365-days-a-year service. Just a few months after his accident, Alex asked for donations in lieu of birthday presents, raising over £400.
“I just wanted to do anything to say thank you and give back, and be there for other people who might be in my position one day. I’m hoping to do more fundraising going forward.”
Less than two years after that fateful day, and Alex is back playing football and feeling fitter than ever. He hopes one day to get back on his bike.
“I love being out on my bike, and I’m very lucky that someday I could be back on the road again. I just have to make sure my parents are fine with it!”
Heather Arrowsmith, CEO at the charity, commented: “Hearing from patients like Alex really drive home how important the charity’s work is. Our crew are out there every day, having a life changing impact on patient’s lives, and it just wouldn’t be possible without the incredible support we receive.”
“The nature of our work means there will always be patients in need, and public support, no matter how big or small, makes an incredible difference to this work. It keeps our helicopters in the air, our rapid response vehicles out on the road, and provides vital funds for research into how we can adapt our service to make sure we’re always improving the impact we have on patient’s lives.”
“In our 21st year of service, and our 8th year celebrating National Air Ambulance Week, it’s amazing to take stock and see how far we have come, and it simply wouldn’t have been possible without the support we’ve received over the years.”