Posted: Sun 30th Jun 2024

Wales’ air ambulance service marks milestone: 50,000 missions in 23 years of lifesaving efforts

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales

Wales’ lifesaving air ambulance service has reached its 50,000th mission, 23 years after the Charity was formed.

The 24/7 service has touched thousands of lives since it was launched in 2001. The milestone highlights the support that the all-Wales Charity has received over the years from the people of Wales and the Charity is “incredibly grateful” to the public. 

Wales Air Ambulance has grown from a one-helicopter operation based at Swansea Airport to what is now the largest air ambulance operation in the UK, with four helicopters and a fleet of rapid response vehicles.

The air and road operations are funded entirely by public donations and the Charity needs to raise £11.2 million every year to keep the helicopters flying and its rapid response vehicles on the road.  

Dr Sue Barnes, Wales Air Ambulance Chief Executive, said: “We mark this milestone with huge gratitude – we are truly humbled. This would not have been possible without the continued support and dedication of our supporters, volunteers, employees, medics, pilots and engineers – past and present. 

“Behind each mission, there are human stories. On 50,000 occasions, the medics on board our vehicles have been tasked to help someone in need. When past patients and their families visit us, they often bring their family and friends – sometimes their young children. At that point, you realise that the impact of our charity is far greater than just the patient themselves. We have also impacted the lives of their family and friends who, without our service, may never have been reunited with their loved ones.

“We are also immensely grateful to those individuals and organisations we work alongside in the chain of emergency care. This includes the Welsh Ambulance Service and Welsh health boards, as well as fellow emergency services across the country.”

One of the 50,000 patients attended by Wales Air Ambulance is Josh Tayman, whose life was saved two years ago.

Thanks to the Wales Air Ambulance Charity and its NHS Wales medical partners the Emergency Medical Retrieval Transfer Service (EMRTS), Josh received emergency department critical care at the scene of his accident. 

Here is Josh’s story…

On 26 March 2022, Joshua Tayman was hiking with his friend Benjamin Robert in Snowdon when their day out resulted in Joshua nearly losing his life.

As they walked along a track at the top of a waterfall, Joshua slipped and fell approximately 50ft into a river close to Swallow Falls near Betws y Coed.

Benjamin free-climbed down to the river to help his friend, which took approximately 5-7 minutes, where he found Joshua, from Ellesmere Port, face down in the water.

To save him from drowning, Benjamin jumped into the river and pulled Joshua out. He performed CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) on Joshua, and dragged him across the river where a passer-by, who happened to be a doctor, took over the CPR. 

Thankfully, after 10 minutes Joshua started to breathe a little and a road ambulance arrived on scene, followed by the Wales Air Ambulance.

The EMRTS medics on board Wales Air Ambulance were Critical Care Consultant, Gareth Thomas, and Critical Care Practitioner Ian Thomas. The team attended by air, flown by Pilot Jon Earp.  

After a difficult extrication from the side of the waterfall, the medics gave Joshua a general anaesthetic and inserted a breathing tube into his lungs which was connected to a ventilator.  

Due to the type of incident and the potential for several significant internal injuries, the Wales Air Ambulance medics gave him six units of blood products via a blood transfusion. They also immobilised his spine and applied a pelvic binder. 

The advanced critical care treatments Josh received at the roadside would usually only be available within a hospital emergency department setting. Thanks to the unique partnership between the Wales Air Ambulance Charity and EMRTS, Joshua had access to pre-hospital care which ultimately saved his life. 

 

Once stable, he was wrapped in a warming blanket and flown directly to the Royal Stoke University Hospital Major Trauma Centre. Following a full assessment in the emergency department and full body scans, he was transferred to the intensive care unit.

Wales Air Ambulance is consultant-led, taking hospital-standard treatments to the patient and, if required, transferring them directly to the most appropriate hospital for their illness or injury. For the patient, this can mean hours saved when compared to standard care and is proven to greatly improve survival and early recovery.

This advanced critical care includes the ability to administer anaesthesia, deliver blood transfusions and conduct minor operations, all at the scene of an incident.

As a pan-Wales service, its dedicated crews, regardless of where they are based, will travel the length and breadth of the country to deliver emergency lifesaving care.

Joshua remarkably survived the fall but it resulted in him suffering from a broken coccyx, parietal scalp haematoma, multiple whole-body bruises and a 4cm wound behind his left ear.

He was kept in an induced coma and on a ventilator for three days in the intensive care unit, before being woken up and taken off the ventilator on day four. 

Extraordinarily, within a couple of days Joshua was eating, drinking and walking with the physiotherapists. This is when he met Wales Air Ambulance Patient Liaison Nurse, Hayley Whitehead-Wright. Hayley’s role is to support patients and their families after what is usually a life-altering and sudden traumatic event. 

He was discharged home on the 1 April, just six days after his accident. 

A grateful Joshua said: “I have made a full recovery since my accident and my health is perfect. I would firstly like to thank Benji for risking his own life to save mine as well as all the people at the Wales Air Ambulance and also Royal Stoke University Hospital for all the care they showed me. 

Hayley Whitehead-Wright said: “It is wonderful to hear that despite Joshua’s horrific fall and nearly drowning, he has made an incredible recovery and spent just six days in hospital. He was very lucky to have his friend Benjamin with him on the day. 

“The Wales Air Ambulance medics were able to put Joshua to sleep to protect his brain from further damage and give him six units of blood at the scene of his accident. The ability to administer an anaesthetic and undertake a blood transfusion is only possible outside of a hospital environment via the Wales Air Ambulance. This ensured that Joshua had the best possible care before reaching the major trauma centre at Royal Stoke University Hospital.”

Since his accident, Joshua has become a proud dad to a baby girl and has gone on to fundraise for the Charity that saved his life.

A grateful Joshua said: “Without the help of the Wales Air Ambulance and everybody that helped me, including Benji, I wouldn’t be here today to see my baby, my girlfriend or my mum. So, it’s not just affected me, it’s affected multiple people along the way.

“To the medics who came to me and my friend Benji, it’s as black and white as it can be – I would not be sat here without you. You save lives every day and I just can’t thank you enough for that. I think the Wales Air Ambulance is an invaluable service and many people would be lost without it.”

To mark the mission milestone, Wales Air Ambulance is asking its supporters to support their 50,000 missions appeal, enabling the Charity to be there for even more people in their time of need.

£50 can help fund crucial training enabling the pilots to launch within five minutes of a call during the day. £30 can contribute to lifesaving medical kit and £10 can help to fund essential fuel for both the aircraft and rapid response vehicles.

Dr Sue Barnes continued: “Our vital service in Wales needs to raise £11.2 million every year to keep our helicopters in the air and our rapid response vehicles on the road. This would not be possible without the dedicated people of Wales. Our frontline crews work tirelessly around the clock to help save lives and be there for the people of Wales when they need us most. We are all proud to be part of an incredible service.

“We are appealing to our supporters to continue to help us, by donating to our 50,000 missions appeal. Every penny matters and will ensure that we can attend the critically ill or injured patients of the future.”

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