As Air Ambulance Northern Ireland completes it’s 4th year of the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) it has been tasked on over 2,226 occassions. This service is provided in partnership between the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service and the charity Air Ambulance NI. It is there for any one of us, 365 days of the year, bringing critical pre-hospital care to people in Northern Ireland.
Behind each one of our taskings is a patient and their family for whom the worst has happened. Patients like Shaun Attwood who had an accident on his motorbike in Newcastle when the service was in its first month of operation. Now four years later, Shaun has recovered well, is still a friend of the charity and one of its Club Members, through which Shaun donates monthly. Shaun said, “My bike hit a car which had pulled out without warning, and I was catapulted onto the windscreen then bounced backwards and landed on my back in the middle of the road. I could feel tingling down the left-hand side of my face and knew that my back and arm were very badly damaged. I sustained extensive injuries including compression of my L3 vertebrae, badly damaged my wrist broke my arm in several places and had knee damage. I’m very grateful to the team.”
Since becoming operational the service has grown significantly, achieving key milestones such as carrying 0-negative blood on board to help patients suffering major blood loss. The opening of the helipad at Royal Victoria Hospital (RVH) in Belfast was another significant step forward for the service and trauma care here in Northern Ireland as a whole.
Doctor Darren Monaghan HEMS Clinical Lead said: “The strong partnership between Air Ambulance NI and the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service allows the HEMS team to provide advanced critical care at the scene or even roadside which usually wouldn’t happen outside of a hospital environment. One of the biggest game changers for us, has been having the helipad open and operational at RVH. Reducing this journey time for patients has genuinely saved lives. It is also important to note that we can only continue to deliver this critical care with the public’s support, quite literally we would be grounded without it. That is why we’re so grateful to everyone out there who has supported the service over the past 4 years, and we urge you to continue to do so.”
Glenn O’Rorke HEMS Operational Lead said: “The inception of the HEMS within Northern Ireland has been a remarkable advancement in pre-hospital care for the province. From January to March 2021 we experienced our busiest quarter to date, this reflects how the HEMS has embedded into the health system and shows the need for critical care interventions at scene when the worst happens for someone in our community. Patients are at the centre of everything we do and with every advancement in the service we are striving to ensure the best possible outcome for each individual who finds themselves in a life or limb threatening situation.”
The HEMS crew are tasked on average twice every single day. However, the past 18 months have been particularly challenging for the charity which aims to raise £2 million a year and fundraising has significantly decreased during the health pandemic.
One avid supporter is Alex McKinley from Omagh who sadly lost her sister Kyra in August 2018 following a car accident. The HEMS team provided care at scene and transferred Kyra to hospital but sadly she didn’t make it. Symbolic to the 4-year anniversary, Alex is now taking on 4 fundraising challenges in memory of her sister and to give other patients every best possible chance: Alex is taking on an abseil of Belfast Castle in August, completing the charity’s Dragon Boat Challenge in September, the Virtual London marathon in October, and completing a 7 Peaks Challenge of the Mournes.
Kerry Anderson Head of Fundraising at Air Ambulance NI said, “Each time the helicopter lifts off we are aware that someone is in great need and that, thanks to the support of people locally, the HEMS team can offer the best chance of saving a life. Over the past 18 months our fundraising plans have been thrown up in the air, with many incredible events cancelled, meanwhile the service needed to continue every single day to reach those patients in critical need. We are so inspired by supporters like Alex and wish her every success in her upcoming challenges. One of the easiest ways to support the charity is to become a Club AANI member like our patient Shaun and donate a little by direct debit. We have over 1500 members and have recently invited all of them to join us for a BBQ get together in August. If you would like to join as a Club AANI member you can sign up today by visiting: www.airambulanceni.org/club-aani-membership/”