Local charity Air Ambulance Northern Ireland reflects on the growth of its service in the past 3 years and sends a special message of thanks to its supporters who continue to be a fundamental factor in the service’s journey.

Throughout the Coronavirus Pandemic, Air Ambulance NI has continued to be busy responding to trauma incidents and delivering critical pre-hospital care 7 days a week.  Since its inception in 2017, the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) has progressed to a daily average call out rate of 2 per day, treating patients who find themselves in traumatic and life-threatening situations. To date the service has been tasked out on over 2054 occasions. Despite the health pandemic, call outs to critically ill and injured patients increased last year to 692, an increase of 18.5% from the previous year.

Paramedic Glenn O’Rorke, Operational Lead for HEMS said,

“Despite 2020 being a tough year, the service has continued to grow achieving key milestones along the way. In January 2020, we began carrying blood on board and on average the crew now administer blood to patients before they reach hospital twice per month. This is a major clinical development and can make a life-changing difference to patients. February 2020 saw the opening of the helipad at the Royal Victoria Hospital. The direct landing site reduces patient travelling time by approximately 25 minutes. Once the patient is ready to be transferred from the air ambulance, he/she can be in the Emergency Department in just over two minutes. Our patients continue to be at the centre of all that we do but it isn’t just the medical crew who save lives, it’s also the people who support our service and keep our helicopter flying.”

Local charity representative, Grace said,

“We want to send this special message to our supporters to thank them and let them know how much their support means to us.  Quite literally the service would be grounded without you.  In 2020, all our fundraising plans were thrown up in the air, with many incredible events being cancelled, meanwhile the service needed to continue every single day to reach those patients in need across Northern Ireland.  The service did not stop when the events were cancelled, and we really were so inspired by the support of our local community.  They walked, ran, hiked, sold keychains, had birthday fundraisers, sang and moved mountains to ensure they still fundraised for the service.  The Air Ambulance NI volunteers and supporters are like no other, and we are immensely proud to have them as part of the service.  From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.”

2020 also saw the launch of our very successful pilot ‘Organise your Will’ campaign, which not only raises awareness of the fact that up to 80% of adults in NI do not have a Will but also enables us to raise awareness of the importance of gifts in Wills for our charity. Those who decide to leave a gift in their Will to Air Ambulance NI will play a huge part in sustaining the service for generations to come.

We are pleased that so many solicitors across NI are working with the charity again in 2021 to offer this service. Throughout March and April participating solicitors will waive their fees, and seek a donation for the charity,  Traditional means of fundraising have ceased, so this is a practical way for the charity to raise funds and for people to ensure their Wills are written and up to date.  Whilst lockdown creates challenges for solicitor meetings, our participating solicitors have creative solutions in terms of video conference calls, outdoor signatures, and various measures to ensure validity. “

Grace continued, “Our patients are at the centre of everything we do. Serious or life-threatening situations can happen to anyone at any time although we hope you will never need to use the service, it is reassuring to know that it is there for you and your loved ones in a critical emergency.”

One such emergency happened in October 2019, when a family day out to celebrate their daughter Anna’s 11th birthday ended up in disaster with life-changing consequences.

Anna’s mum, Grace, was hoping for a girlie spa day with Anna, but being a “tom-boy at heart” Anna chose a day of motocross with her brothers at Magilligan Moto X Track, near Limavady. The whole Neville family were at the track that Saturday afternoon and Anna and her brothers Benjamin (10) and David (9) were completing their second session of laps when suddenly there was a commotion in one particular area of the track where people starting shouting and waving for help. Quickly realising something was wrong, Grace rushed to the scene where she found Anna had fallen off her bike and dad Andrew was shouting for help.

The emergency services were phoned immediately, and a NIAS road crew soon arrived, followed by the charity Air Ambulance NI helicopter, bringing the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service team. Anna was in a lot of pain and was drifting in and out of consciousness, so the HEMS team decided to put Anna into a medically induced coma at the scene in order to prevent any further damage to her brain.

During this time, Anna’s parents Grace and Andrew waited anxiously as the team worked on their eldest child. After providing that critical care treatment at the scene of the accident, the HEMS team took Anna from the motocross track outside Limavady and flew her to the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children (RBHSC) in less than 30 minutes, compared to a journey time of 90 minutes via road.

When Grace and Andrew arrived at the RBHSC, the initial assessments on Anna were not positive. Anna had received a fractured skull, multiple bleeds on the brain, collapsed lung, detached retina and damage to her hearing as well as multiple fractures.

The following two weeks, Anna went through a stage of high agitation as her brain was effectively resetting itself, but more positive news followed on the 8th December when Anna’s medical team in RBHSC could see the progress she was making and her incredible fight. Anna continued to defy the odds as the weeks progressed and was finally allowed home in February 2020 to continue her recovery.

Then in early March, just before the country went into Covid-19 lockdown, Anna and the family visited the charity Air Ambulance NI base outside Lisburn and met the medical team, including the HEMS doctor who treated Anna that day.

Anna has made a miraculous recovery over the past twelve months. Anna’s mum said “Without this life saving service, the outcome for Anna would have been very different. The expertise, professionalism and compassion of the entire Air Ambulance NI Team is outstanding, they hold a very special place in our hearts. We would ask everyone to consider supporting the amazing work this charity provides.”

The charity Air Ambulance Northern Ireland, in partnership with the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service, provides the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service for Northern Ireland.  The service brings urgent medical assistance to anywhere in the province, operating seven days a week for 12 hours per day. It can get to anywhere in Northern Ireland in approximately twenty-five minutes.

The HEMS team attend patients who are seriously ill or injured, bringing emergency pre-hospital care direct to the casualty with the aim of saving lives, brains and limbs.

Air Ambulance NI needs to raise £2million each year to maintain this service so public donations are crucial.

For more information on our life saving service or If you would like to support AANI’s ‘Organise your Will’ campaign please contact grace.williams@airambulanceni.org or call 028 9262 2677.

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