A Northamptonshire man paid tribute to the county's Air Ambulance service after it revealed nearly 400 life-saving missions in the county during 2021.
Crews from the Warwickshire & Northamptonshire Air Ambulance have worked around the clock throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, providing frontline critical care despite relying solely on charity donations to keep flying.
Ian Lewis, from Earls Barton, was one helped by the service back in 2013 after crashing during a charity cycle ride.
Eight riders set out in snow and ice but Ian came a cropper rounding a tight bend on a country lane near the village of Hellidon, on the edge of the county.
Ian admitted recollections of the crash aftermath are hazy.
He said: “The weather was horrendous but, because it was an organised event with 500 entries and all profits going to charity, we decided to go ahead despite it being so cold and the conditions so bad.
“I remember hearing a helicopter and being on a stretcher, but not very clearly. Then I was in the Accident & Emergency Department at the hospital in Coventry.
“The care I got from the Air Ambulance crew was superb. They arrived quite soon after the accident happened and got me to hospital very quickly.
"They provide a fantastic service which is funded by donations and fundraising when, I think, most people would expect it to be paid for from our taxes."
It took the Air Ambulance just nine minutes to fly Ian from the crash scene to University Hospital Coventry.
A combination of hazardous driving conditions and the remote location meant that the helicopter was the safest and quickest form of transport to get him to the specialist trauma care he needed.
Ian had an operation the same day to put two screws in his fractured his right hip. He was in hospital for six days and spent four months off work.
During his recuperation period Ian used an exercise bike to get fit again and six months after the accident he was well enough to complete the charity ride.
Ian added: “I’m sure that the air ambulance’s attendance on that morning and its ability to get me to A&E so soon after the accident were paramount to my speedy recovery.
"Without it – bearing in mind the cold conditions – my situation could have been a whole lot worse and may have even meant the end of my cycling for good.”
The Warwickshire & Northamptonshire Air Ambulance works alongside the Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Rutland Air Ambulance. Together the twin services were called to over 3,300 missions in 2021 — 375 of them in Northamptonshire — for medical emergencies, crashes, assaults, self-harm and mental health incidents, falls, and sports and industrial accidents.
Yet the service received no government funding and meets the cost of each mission — around £3,000 — through its own fund-raising and donations.
The charity has plans to further develop in 2022 by bringing blood on board and training its critical care paramedics in the use of ultrasound equipment, as well as upgrading its critical care cars and base facilities for the crews.
And it is calling on the communities it serves to show their support as the charity builds on the 45,351 plus missions it has attended since its launch in 2003.
CEO, Andy Williamson, said: “Starting 2021 with another lockdown continued to impact our lifesaving charity’s funds as more fundraising events had to be cancelled, and our stores remained closed.
“Despite this, our 24/7 lifesaving service enhanced further as we brought on board two brand new replacement aircraft which, as you can see from our stats, continued to remain on the frontline, fully operational for those who needed us.
“As a charity, our mission is clear: To continue providing leading pre-hospital emergency care to our patients and to support the NHS.
"This year our vital service will again be there – 365 days a year – for those in their hour of need, but to do this we need the support of people within our communities now more than ever before."