Hilary Duddy, from the Waterside, Derry/Londonderry, was on her way to a charity event in Belfast on her classic motorbike 28th September 2019, travelling along the Glenshane Pass when she came off her bike and her world literally turned upside down. Unbeknown to Hilary at the time, the extent of her injuries were so severe, that the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) was tasked to the incident by air.
Hilary explains, “I was thinking I had a great evening ahead in Belfast with biking friends, I was really looking forward to it. I was coming along the well-known Glenshane Pass and just came off the bike. I have no memory of it of course, and that’s probably better. The big damage was to my head – I had a bleed on the brain and injuries to my face so having the medical team arrive quickly by air ambulance really made a difference. From the airbase to the Glenshane is only about a 20-minute flight.
The charity air ambulance helicopter always has a doctor and paramedic on board, and they are very experienced in what they do. They treated me at scene and took me to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast for further care. I was in hospital for 3 weeks and then attended the outpatients clinic in Spruce House, Altnagelvin Hospital.
The timing was very difficult as my daughter had just given birth to her first baby and my first Grandchild, Ruby and of course I couldn’t be there to help as much as I had planned. But I have come a long way, am feeling great now and know that if it wasn’t for the HEMS team the outcome could have been a lot worse.
Recently I visited the air ambulance in Lisburn where the helicopter and medics are based and had the opportunity to see the aircraft in a different set of circumstances. I was also able to meet the pilot who had flown the medics to scene that day – he remembered my incident and I was so touched by that. I also met one of the doctors who was able to explain about the breadth of interventions the team are able to provide at scene. Knowing that the Glenshane was turned into an intensive care unit is quite remarkable!
As a biker, I was always aware of the air ambulance service but never expected to need it. I encourage everyone to support this service which relies on charitable fundraising and contributions. This year felt like the right time for me to do a fundraiser and I had a rock music night in the Brigade cricket club. I was able to help air ambulance and Headway who have been a great support to me. I’ve also started volunteering with air ambulance and am thoroughly enjoying it.”
The charity Air Ambulance Northern Ireland, in partnership with the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service, provides the HEMS for Northern Ireland. The service brings urgent medical assistance to anywhere in the province, operating seven days a week for 12 hours per day. 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. The aircraft can reach anywhere in Northern Ireland in approximately twenty-five minutes.
On average the medical team are called upon twice every day, whether that is as a result of a serious road traffic collision, farm or workplace accident, sport and leisure incident or a serious medical emergency.
Any patients or families of the HEMS are welcome to visit the airbase and should get in touch with Air Ambulance NI by calling 028 9262 2677.
Kerry Anderson, Head of Fundraising added, “It’s lovely to see the recovery that Hilary has made. As a local charity, Air Ambulance NI aspires to raise £2.5million each year to continue being there for patients like Hilary. One of the simplest ways to support is by becoming a regular donor and setting up a direct debit to support the charity. Those who sign up to £8 a month will automatically be a ‘Club AANI’ member, receiving a pin badge, car sticker and annual invitation to the charity member BBQ event. If you’d rather take on a challenge, then we have a range of events this year including abseils, boat racing, sky dives, walks and runs. Find out more by visiting www.airambulanceni.org, following us on social media or contacting our team on email@example.com or 028 9262 2677. Others live when you give so please consider how you can support your air ambulance be there for everyone.”