David Thompson, from Sion Mills, was working on his family farm just over a year ago when an accident unfolded that almost cost him his life.   David said, “It was 17th April 2019, a foggy start to the morning.  I was helping my son with a new farm project and the pressure was on with lots do at that time of year.  I was in the barn alone, up a ladder cutting the strings on large straw bales.  I stretched to cut the last of them and the bale sprung open, pushing the ladder and catapulting me from it, 14 feet to the ground.  I have no memory of what occurred next but family and those at scene have pieced it together.

David continued, “I apparently phoned my son David who immediately knew something was wrong; he called a contractor on the farm site, Phillip, who came to check on me.  I was still conscious when Phillip came into the barn and soon after the 999 call was made.  Phillip told me not to move despite my appeal for help to get up.  The NIAS road crew arrived on scene and soon determined that the HEMS TEAM were needed.”

Air Ambulance Northern Ireland is the charity that provides the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) for the region, together with the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service.  It takes £2m each year in fundraising to keep the service operational.

The fog meant that the flight to reach David was not as direct as it usually would be, it was necessary for the HEMS team to detour and fly at a higher altitude than usual for visibility.

Once the team had safely landed, the HEMS team consisting of Paramedic Jason Rosborough and Doctor Russell McLaughlin worked with NIAS paramedics, to carry out critical care interventions.

During the fall, David had hit a crate at the side of the bales, banging his head on the way down.  Whilst this had broken the impact of the fall, it resulted in an extensive head injury.  Due to the severity of his injuries and concern about potential rupture of David’s spleen, he was put into an Medically  induced coma. This is a Critical Care Intervention that the HEMS team can perform at scene.

Wife, Sally, said, “The fog had started to lift by that stage which meant that the team were able to fly David to the Royal Victoria Hospital rather than travel by road ambulance saving crucial travel time.”

David spent 5 weeks in hospital, 3 in the Royal Victoria Hospital and a further 2 in Musrgrave Park Hospital.   His recovery is continuing, with the head injury being the biggest factor, but his family are so pleased he is alive and has made remarkable progress.

Sally, said, “As well as the fantastic care from HEMS and in hospital, David had many things on his side which have helped his recovery journey; being fit and healthy prior to the accident, a determined nature, strong faith and good community and family support.  For all this we will be forever grateful for the chance that Air Ambulance offered.”

The Thompson family visited the Air Ambulance base and were reunited with HEMS Doctor Russell McLaughlin, one of the team who had treated David at scene.

David said, “I have to say, that without Air Ambulance NI I would not be here today. All the consultants have told me that it is a miracle I’m alive. It is so important to support this charity to ensure it continues providing critical care.  I had hoped to organise a fundraising event for Air Ambulance this year to help with the daily funding need of £5,500 but given the health pandemic that is unfortunately on hold.  So, my appeal to the farming community as well as staying safe is to continue to support the Air Ambulance by donating what you can.”

Barclay Bell, Trustee of the charity, Past President of Ulster Farmer’s Union and farmer, said, “Farming and agricultural accidents have the propensity to be serious in nature; in fact, the very first Air Ambulance NI call out was to a farming accident.  And now social distancing measures can mean increased lone working; we encourage our farming and rural community not to take unnecessary risks and follow safety procedures.”

Glenn O’Rorke, Operational Lead for the HEMS said, “Despite lockdown the incident rate of farming accidents is as prevalent as ever.  If a serious accident does happen, don’t hesitate to call 999. Whether the accident is in relation to moving vehicles, livestock, slurry, or falls from height when a farm or agriculture incident occurs, our HEMS team can reach anywhere in NI in up to 25 minutes. It is helpful for the pilot on approach if you can identify the farm location – a couple of family members in high vis jackets signalling, or a tractor parked in the middle of the field with the beacon on.  Finally remember that it is only with continued support that we can fly and continue to help.  The charity is offering membership of its Club AANI for £8 per month, a means of regular giving by direct debit at www.airambulanceni.org.”

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