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Lincs and Notts Air Ambulance patients from Stamford and Bourne praise charity as it marks 25 years of saving lives

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An injured driver is trapped in her car on a rail track, a train carriage crushed up against the passenger side.

Firefighters are desperately trying to free the driver from the vehicle using cutting equipment, while their colleagues attend to the passenger who has been thrown out of the car and is lying on the track.

Meanwhile, the roar of the air ambulance can be heard overhead, manned by chief pilot Llewis Ingamells, his co-pilot, two paramedics and a doctor.

As soon as they land, the crew rush to assist firefighters. The air ambulance carries blood on board, as well as essential life-saving equipment. The aim is to keep the patients alive and get them to hospital as quickly as possible. The flight to hospital from here would take just 10-12 minutes.

The scene unfolding is as real as you can imagine, but it is, in fact, a mock mission, held at the Fire and Rescue Training Ground in Waddington, near Lincoln.

It was all part of an event on Monday, May 13, set up to highlight the incredible work of the Lincs and Notts Air Ambulance as it marks its 25th birthday.

Since airlifting their very first patient on May, 13, 1994, the air ambulance has provided a life-saving Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) for the two counties. To date, it has been called out to 20,000 critically injured patients across Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire.

Still, many people do not realise that the air ambulance receives no direct government funding and relies solely on the generosity of the public to ensure its life-saving service continues.

Attending the event on Monday, were charity ambassadors, clinical crew, trustees and former patients who have been helped by the service over the last 25 years.

Among those were Steven Collyer (40). He was just 19-years-old when he was involved in a terrifying road traffic collision near his home.

He was airlifted in the charity’s very first aircraft, a Bölkow, to Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham. Due to his life-threatening injuries, he was taken straight to theatre where the clinical team operated on his ruptured heart and his parents were told to prepare for the worst.

He remembers: “I was trapped by the steering wheel and my feet had gone through the floor of the car. They were actually sat on the road underneath the driver’s seat.

“At the time, the air ambulance was not running as regularly as it is now. It was just purely if funds were available for it to fly; so I was very lucky. I owe my life to the air ambulance, and that’s why I am here today.”

His mum, Brenda, was also at the event on Monday. She said: “He wasn’t expected to live, but he did, and part of that was due to the skill of the surgeons, and because he was young, and he was fit, and also, of course, because they got him to hospital by air ambulance so quickly.”

She and her husband, Graham, have been volunteers for the air ambulance for the past 20 years, as their way of saying thank you.

Tony Hoare, (45) was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident with suspected head injuries and internal bleeding, at Cadwell Park in August 2012.

Former patient Tony Hoare
Former patient Tony Hoare

He said: “The air ambulance was able to take me straight to the trauma centre at Hull. The last thing I remember of that day was being called to the starting grid and told I was number two on the grid. All of that race and the rest of that day is gone.”

He woke up in hospital four days later with two punctured lungs, several broken ribs, a broken shoulder blade, and nerve damage.

Now recovered, he and his friends fundraised for the air ambulance, cycling from his home in Stamford back to Hull, where he was treated, and then to Cadwell Park.

Former joiner Craig Metcalf (29), was injured in a serious road traffic accident on the A46 in September 2015.

As a result of the accident, Craig’s speech has been affected, so his mum Karen, who was there with her son on Monday, told us what happened.

Not knowing if Craig would survive or not from his terrible injuries, the only hope she had to cling on to was the fact that the air ambulance got to him so quickly, and that he was still young.

Former air ambulance patient Steven Collyer (centre), with his mum Brenda and dad Graham
Former air ambulance patient Steven Collyer (centre), with his mum Brenda and dad Graham

Karen said: “I have to say, it wasn’t until after the accident that you start to look at the air ambulance and I had no idea that it wasn’t government funded. I could not get my head around that fact and so we did some fundraising and we raised £1,000 for them. I donate every month out of my payroll, giving through work and to put it in a nutshell, you just think to yourself I challenge anyone just to spend one second and imagine that their loved one or child was in an emergency situation where they needed an air ambulance to survive, and it couldn’t come because there was not enough funding. At the end of the day, if it wasn’t for them, he wouldn’t be here without them.”

Father-of-two Neil Ward was also at Monday’s event. He was driving along the A151 near Grimsthorpe in August 2016 when a lorry coming in the opposite direction, jack-knifed going around one of the corners and pushed Neil’s car into a ditch.

The 38 year-old, from Thurlby, was left with a serious head injury along with further trauma to his hip and knee.

Sarah, 36, his wife, said: “He was trapped in his car and the fire service from Bourne cut him out.

Former patient Neil Ward with wife Sarah, of Thurlby
Former patient Neil Ward with wife Sarah, of Thurlby

“The air ambulance was also at the scene and they put him into an induced coma because he had suffered a serious head injury.

“Neil was then airlifted to Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham and we have been told it was touch and go and they didn’t expect him to survive.

“He was in hospital for about four and a half months and had mental-work inserted into his hip and knee and the hip eventually had to be replaced.

“He was intensive care for nine weeks, on life support and had to learn to do everything again.

“We knew about the air ambulance but you don’t really think about it until you actually need it.

“If it wasn’t for the helicopter, we were told he probably wouldn’t be here so we’re really grateful to them for that.

“It was really nice to go to Waddington and meet some of the crew that helped Neil that day.

“Also, the fire service who cut him out and the staff at the Queen’s Medical Centre were

Neil is still recovering from his injuries but the work of the air ambulance means that he can watch his two children, Harry, seven, and Poppy, four, grow up.

The air ambulance is currently working towards offering a 24-hour service, seven days a week.

Former patient Craig Metcalf and his mum Karen
Former patient Craig Metcalf and his mum Karen

CEO Karen Jobling, said: “On average it costs £2,500 for a single mission. So every time we take off, that covers the crew that sits in it, the medical equipment, the drugs. At the moment we fly every day of the year from 7am to 7pm and that costs us about two and a half million pounds every year; but we are increasing our flying now to 24 hours a day, seven days a week and we will need to increase our fundraising up to £4 million to sustain that.”

At the event on Monday, the new logo on the tail of the ambucopter was unveiled. To mark 25 years of saving lives, it now depicts 25 pairs of hands – with each reflecting on the story of a former patient whose life has been touched by the charity’s life-saving crew.

  • On average, the crew are called out to around 1,000 emergencies every year.
  • They are one of the few air ambulances in the UK to carry blood on board and can give on-scene blood transfusions.
  • Lincs & Notts Air Ambulance will be running a series of fundraising events and activities to mark its 25th year. To find out how you can get involved and help ensure the charity’s 25th year is one to remember, visit www.ambucopter.org.uk or call the team on 01522 548469 (Lincs) or 0115 9412255 (Notts).

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