Wiltshire Air Ambulance (WAA) hosted a special get together of patients it has airlifted since it started operating on March 15 1990.
The service has saved countless lives during its 25 years and has carried out almost 15,000 missions. To mark the service’s Silver Jubilee the charity invited past patients to visit the helicopter’s base in Devizes.
Mad Hatters Café in Edward Street, Westbury, baked an anniversary cake for the occasion.
Dave Grace, 49, of Market Lavington, was one of the first patients airlifted by WAA following a road traffic collision on April 18 1990 on the A342 near Marden. Dave was unconscious and his injuries included a broken ankle, broken leg, fractured skull and punctured lung.
He was airlifted to Salisbury Hospital and was discharged three months later.
Dave, a paint sprayer and panel beater, said: “Wiltshire Air Ambulance saved my life. From what I have been told, the crew in the land ambulance I was in thought I wouldn’t make it to hospital by road and they called in the air ambulance. Wiltshire Air Ambulance is needed, it’s a brilliant service. It can get injured patients to hospitals really quickly and it saves a lot of lives.”
Peter Culley, 85, of Stourton near Warminster, was airlifted on January 14 1993 after he was hit in the forehead by a tree that was being winched and swung out of control. At the time he was a forestry worker at Stourhead Woods.
Peter said: “Wiltshire Air Ambulance is marvellous. It’s done good service and I hope it carries on for another 25 years.”
Stable groom Louise Neale, of Corsham, owes her life to WAA. She was airlifted after she was kicked in the head by a horse on March 22 2000 near Chippenham.
Louise, 37, said: “The helicopter flew me to the Royal United Hospital, Bath, in, I think, eight minutes. If I had gone by road the trip would have done a lot more damage to my injuries. I raise money for Wiltshire Air Ambulance nearly every other year. I feel ever so proud every time I see the air ambulance or hear it in the air. It’s an absolute wonderful miracle and it’s fantastic that the people of Wiltshire fund it.”
Shaun Fleming, 56, of Wroughton, was airlifted on September 28 2014 after falling from a ladder while pruning a conifer at home. He was taken to Southmead Hospital, Bristol, and was treated for fractured shoulder blades, hip socket and a minor skull fracture.
Shaun, a painter and decorator, has just become a volunteer with WAA. He said: “I wanted to give something back. I’m so grateful for the care the crew gave me and for airlifting me. They got me to hospital safely without further complications. I’m extremely lucky.”
Alan Dore, 26, of Ampney Crucis, near Cirencester, Gloucestershire, was the first patient airlifted on WAA’s new helicopter on January 9 2015. He suffered a head injury, arm and leg injuries as a result of a road traffic collision involving his pick up truck and a HGV at a slip road off the A417 near Cirencester.
Alan, a kitchen fitter and carpenter, said: “The journey to hospital in the air ambulance was very quick. The work that it does is amazing. I’m really grateful that it came to my aid. I will be raising money for it in the future.”
The idea for an air ambulance in Wiltshire came following an incident in 1988 when Wiltshire Police hired a helicopter to monitor the summer solstice celebrations at Stonehenge. While in the air the crew heard of a potentially fatal accident involving a woman on the A350 at Beanacre near Melksham. The police observer’s seat was removed to make way for a stretcher and the observer vacated the helicopter for the paramedic. The woman was flown to the Royal United Hospital, Bath, in five minutes and survived.
From March 15 1990 to December 31 2014 Wiltshire Air Ambulance shared a helicopter with Wiltshire Police. The first helicopter was a Bolkow. In December 1998 this was replaced by a MD 902 Explorer – the first of its kind to be used as a police helicopter in the UK.
In the summer of 2001 the flying hours of the joint helicopter were extended to 19 hours a day due to the demand for medical emergencies. At the time Wiltshire was the first air ambulance in the UK to fly at night.
The partnership with Wiltshire Police ended due to the force joining the National Police Air Service and in January 2015 the charity started operating a new helicopter, a Bell 429, as a dedicated air ambulance. Wiltshire is making aviation history as the Bell 429 is the first to be used as an air ambulance in the UK.
David Philpott, Chief Executive of WAA, said: “The success of Wiltshire Air Ambulance is due to its team of highly skilled Critical Care Paramedics, experienced pilots and committed charity staff who strive to deliver exceptional patient care. But we couldn’t do what we do without the people of Wiltshire raising money for us day in, day out. They have supported us magnificently for 25 years and we need them to carry on doing that to ensure our life-saving service continues.
“As we enter our Silver Jubilee year there are so many ways to get involved, from taking part in our Lottery, becoming a Friend of Wiltshire Air Ambulance, to organising your own event or taking part in challenge events raising money for us such as the White Horse Challenge in July and a Sahara trek in October.” For more information about Wiltshire Air Ambulance go to www.wiltshireairambulance.co.uk
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