New air ambulance takes to the skies to save lives

Top crew: The air ambulance crew pose with former patients infront of the  ambucopter ahead of its first flight on Wednesday.
Top crew: The air ambulance crew pose with former patients infront of the ambucopter ahead of its first flight on Wednesday.
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Percentage for missions undertaken in 2016

Road traffic collisions40

Medical/cardiac arrests25

Industrial farming and agricultural17

Leisure, horse riders and motorsports9

Trips and falls9

Neil Wood and Sarah Layden, who owe their lives to the air ambulance, joined crew, volunteers and the media at a special event at RAF Waddington, to introduce the new AgustaWestland AW169 helicopter and watch as it took to the sky for the very first time.

First flight: The air ambulance took to the skies for the first time on Wednesday.

First flight: The air ambulance took to the skies for the first time on Wednesday.

The ambucopter builds on the level of critical care that the Lincs and Notts Air Ambulance can provide at the roadside, directly impacting upon patients’ survival and recovery and replacing the previous MD Explorer helicopter, which has been responding to emergencies in Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire for the last seven years.

Built in Milan, Italy, by Leonardo and reaching speeds of up to 190 mph, the AW169 can reach any corner of the two counties in under 20 minutes, with Spalding being a 15 minute flight from its base in RAF Waddington, near Lincoln.

Since flying operations began in 1994, the Lincs and Notts Air Ambulance has been called upon for more than 18,200 missions with the AW169 becoming the third helicopter type that has been operated, with each one offering an upgraded service and greater benefits.

Not only is it larger and faster, it can also carry more fuel and can go from mission to mission without refuelling. It also allows medics 360-degree access to their patient, enabling the paramedics to deliver life-saving interventions whilst in flight.

Supportive partner: Ryan Bradshaw has now set up a custom cycling clothing website to raise money for the charity.

Supportive partner: Ryan Bradshaw has now set up a custom cycling clothing website to raise money for the charity.

After a year of planning, chief executive officer Karen Jobling was pleased to mark the milestone occasion.

She said: “Excellent patient care is at the heart of everything we do. The combination of speed, endurance and technology of the AW169 will be of huge benefit to the patients. We completed 1,009 missions in 2016, but we can only continue to do that with the help of the community. The air ambulance is something that we all like to see, but hope that we don’t have to use it.”

Aircraft captain Tim Taylor has been working with the charity for 12 years. He is bracing himself for a busy few months ahead.

He said: “Summer is always our busiest time for the air ambulance. The lighter nights and warmer weather means more people out and about and in particular people indulging in different sports like horseriding, cycling and motorsports.

“On average, we deal with about 1,000 incidents a year. The most that I’ve had to respond to in a single day is 11 incidents.”

Despite having to face some traumatic scenes, Tim couldn’t think of doing anything else.

He added: “I like the fact that I am in a position to help someone in their greatest hour of need on what is possibly the worst day of their lives.”

Two former air ambulance patients were some of the first people to see the new ambucopter.

Sarah Layden, 31, from Nottingham, was riding a mountain bike in June 2014 with her partner Ryan Bradshaw, 32, and a friend when she fell off and plunged 30ft into a quarry, knocking her unconcious.

She said: “We were actually on our way home after a great day out cycling and I wanted to try one more jump, but it all went wrong.”

After Sarah falling 30ft, Ryan shouted to their friend to call for an air ambulance after realising that their rural location would not be accessible by road.

Unconscious, bleeding and barely breathing, Sarah was airlifted to the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham, where doctors found she had a serious brain injury.

Despite having to take a year off work, Sarah is looking ahead after managing to return part time as a community nurse.

She added: “Without the air ambulance, I wouldn’t be here now. They are fantastic.”

Ryan has now designed a range of custom made cycle clothing to raise money for the charity. He said: “I work in a bike shop but I’ve always been interested in fashion and cycling after studying art and design at college.

“After Sarah’s accident, I thought it was a great opportunity to raise money for the air ambulance by designing a range of cycling clothing to sell online. It’s the least we can do.”

Ryan sells the cycling clothes from his website and has included a section about the air ambulance, stating: “The air ambulance is very close to our hearts here at Cadenza Velo and without their services we wouldn’t be here today. As a thank you we will be making a donation from everything we sell to the Lincs and Notts Air Ambulance service and continue to support them with anything we can going forward.”

Ryan added: “At the moment, one pound from every sale goes towards the air ambulance, but we are hoping to increase it as the range takes off.”

The cycling-mad couple who first met in the bike shop that Ryan works at and later got together after Ryan made up a cycling club just to get Sarah to come out, has no plans to slow down. Sarah added: “If anything, I’ve got more determination now, We’ve not long returned from a cycling trip in the Alps. My parents are not so keen but as I don’t remember anything, my fear is not there. I’m just more careful.”

Neil Wood also owes his life to the air ambulance crew.

Neil, who lives in Bourne, was driving along the A151 last August when a lorry veered across the road, colliding with his car and sending it into a ditch. Neil was trapped with the HGV on top of his car when the air ambulance was dispatched to the scene.

He was put into a medically induced coma before being airlifted to the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham with multiple injuries including a brain injury, fractured pelvis and fractured kneecap. He is still recovering from his injuries.

He said: “I don’t remember anything after getting into my car that morning.”

It’s been a slow recovery for the dad-of-two who used to be vice captain for Bourne rugby club before the accident. He added: “I keep developing blood clots, but I just remind myself that I will get better.”

After coming out of hospital, Neil, his wife Sarah and two children Harry (5) and two-year-old Poppy, moved in with his parents for more support. Despite not being able to see Harry and Poppy for a few months after the accident, the children have coped well.

Neil added: “Harry started school one week after the crash so I missed that, but he coped with everything really well and the school was really supportive.”

Neil was shocked to learn that the air ambulance is not publically funded, adding: “It should be. They are fantastic. It took a lot to come today but it’s been really great to be able to come and thank the people who saved my life.”

Paramadic Richard Irwin was part of the air ambulance crew who responded to both Neil and Sarah’s accidents. He was seconded to the Lincs and Notts Air Ambulance in 2012, following eight years on ambulances and fast response vechicles in Nottinghamshire and has not left ever since. He is excited to see the ambucopter being brought into service.

He said: “The main difference for me will be the amount of space that we will have in the back allowing us to deliver a much better service on flight. We used to only be able to tend to the patients from the waist up so this is a major breakthrough.”

Richard is very grateful for the support the charity receives from the community, adding: “I find it very humbling to see how much the public engage with the charity. It’s almost like they take ownership of it. We’ve had donations from so many different organisations, ranging from school fetes to corporate orginsations, who have made us their charity of the year.

“It’s not just the people that we tend to at incidents that connect with us but their families and friends often start supporting and fund-raising for us too. It’s a ripple effect.”

Following some final training, the iconic yellow helicopter will be operational as of this week and will be dispatched to some of the most serious life-threatening 999 calls within the two counties, undertaking an average of three missions every day, 365 days a year. Each life-saving mission undertaken by the new aircraft will cost an average of £2,500 and around £2.5m a year to keep the air ambulance in the air. To raise this money, the chaity rely totally on the people, organisations and businesses of Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire.