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6 February 2024

Heroes of Our Time 5: Great North Air Ambulance Service Helicopter Rescue

Great North Air Ambulance Service save lives.

In two words, Critical Care. When minutes count and a life is on the line. A paramedic needs to get to the scene fast and be trained to an exceptional level to preserve life until the patient gets to a hospital.

To rescue those in need where response time is vital, a matter of life or death. That response time is everything. The faster they can get to you the greater your chance of survival. They are highly trained in a range of skills. To advise on optimal medical management and transfer of casualties, coordinate GNAAS services at the scene and liaise with other emergency services, oversee the management of casualties in the casualty clearing station and advise on the most appropriate hospital destination and PHEM, or Pre-Hospital Emergency Medicine.

The paramedics provide advanced medical care where it is needed, both in casualty collection points and on the scene if safe to do so. This may include the full range of GNAAS clinical skills including delivery of anaesthesia, surgical procedures including amputation, blood transfusion, and advanced pain relief and sedation.

The core of their work is to get to people in dire need, in places that are hard to reach, as fast as possible and provide immediate medical attention. They use helicopters, cars and perhaps soon jet suits to accomplish this. Yes, they are currently trialling on Gravity Jet Suits to reach people in difficult terrain quickly.

They constantly evaluate new medical practices and procedures to improve their medical care. And also monitor advances in transport, because if technology will get them to a patient faster it will save a lot more lives. That window of time it takes to get to a patient’s side is critical. Save five minutes and you could save 30% more lives.

After spending a few days with the Great North Air Ambulance Service I was struck by a few things.

They are so highly trained that they rely on their professionalism to see them through any situation. They depend on each other to perform their role perfectly so they can do theirs with confidence, trusting the support of their team around them.

They also take on a huge amount of responsibility, as do all medical staff, but they have to make instant life-saving decisions with very little time and in extreme situations.

This requires extraordinary training but it also demands extraordinary people.

So, are these doctors and paramedics heroes or is this just another job, however highly skilled? I don’t think the profession itself makes them heroes. They are superbly trained to work in the most exacting environments and rely on that training to make split-second decisions to save lives.

What makes them heroes is that they chose to do this job and more importantly, continue to do so, braving daily pressures that seem incredible to me and to be brutally frank, war-like conditions. Their daily lives are lived at a level that is beyond my comprehension. I have never admired a group of people more. And that includes everyone in the back office that helps them perform these miracles.

Another thing I took from talking to so many of them was that they were all immensely professional, able to take instant, even aggressive action when required, yet also kind and immensely proud of their work. Decisive in the field when seconds count for saving lives, yet patient and communicative to ensure people are cared for whilst also ensuring everything is done swiftly and efficiently. These are normally opposing characteristics and rare.

Try being patient with a drunk blathering all over you while you perform open emergency heart surgery on the street. They do this often.

If you are now getting the impression that I admire them enormously you would be right. These are the closest people I have met to genuine superheroes. They cope with stresses and emergencies that would shock anyone and they do it daily.

Another thing of note is that they all talked about the privilege of working with their colleagues. The reward for taking on such responsibility was working with others of like mind, talent and dedication.

These people are incredible. They have to be kind, caring and perform miracles at skill levels that are unbelievably demanding in the most extreme circumstances ever. They are angels in war zones, every day on our streets.

The Great North Air Ambulance Service is 100% self-funded. It receives no money from the NHS. The team raise all the money to save people’s lives independently each year. They even buy in their blood supplies. Anything you can do to help, contribute a little cash, raise funds, tell people about them etc, every little counts.

Category: Adventure