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A Thankyou for Shirley
Member Name: aefra
Date: 06/10/02, updated on 08/10/02 (74 review reads)
Advantages: A dedicated and lifesaving service
Disadvantages: Needs donations to keep flying
A few minutes ago I said a "Thankyou" as I watched a bright yellow helicoptor fly straight and true over my house on it's way to Southend Hospital. On board was a friend leaving behind a thankful 9 year old daughter and those of us who witnessed one of those accidents which although not rare can result in genuine injury.
As usual on a sunday morning, several horse owners, including children, started a ride round the farm which is home to the stableyard where I keep my own horse. I had lent Ben to a friend so that she could accompany her daughter, and I watched from a ridge, my dog beside me, as they strung in a line looking like toys in the distance. I knew that they would travel carefully as children on their ponies were behind.
It started as such a perfect autumn morning, with the sun brightening the brown, newly-seeded fields and the leaves still thick on the trees in clumps of woodland. I watched a boat being moored on the distant River Crouch below me and then the uplifting sight of one of our resident sparrow hawks whipping by almost at eye level. I said aloud to Jody, my jack russell terrier, "Can life really be this good?"
As the line of riders, headed as usual by my own impatient old horse, filed carefully down a steep bank they stopped. I was told later that because of the children they were "organising" the canter back. Nobody wanted a stampede of hotted up horses and ponies. The track is covered in shell with thick woodchippings above (a horse rider's heaven) and they took off in pairs towards me at the canter, although still some way away. It was then that a powerful young mare threw in a couple of huge bucks, sending her rider, Shirley, flying throught the air. Shirley's attempt to hang on to her horse only resulted in her fall becoming messy instead of the usual roll on the shoulder. Two of the riders came at the gallop and passed me on the way to the yard. Mean
while, thank goodness for mobile phones, an ambulance had been called.
When I reached Shirley she was lying on her back with a leg badly twisted under her, and said that she thought it was broken. It was confirmed later that this was so. In that few minutes the buzz of a helicopter broke the quietness of the morning and the AA- yellow air ambulance started to circle the farm. Shirley was lying close to an outcropping hedgerow and I signalled them. I don't know if they noticed, but they circled lower and made straight for the spot, landing on a flat part of the wide field.
Once it had been confirmed that Shirley "only" had a broken leg, we saw a humorous side to things. Our recent care not to walk or ride on the newly seeded crops had gone drastically by the board, as a fourwheeled drive motor, a quad with 2 children riding behind feeling "cool" at the ride and a dozen people walked across the tilthed brown surface.
The Essex Air Ambulance, started in June 1997 handles an average of 3 to 5 flights per day and has flown over 3000 missions. It is funded entirely by donations from the people of Essex with no help from the Government. Based on an old WW11 airfield at Boreham, close to Chelmsford, the helicopter is always within 8 minutes of a major hospital and within 18 minutes of anywhere in the county. Always ready, as soon as a call comes in the pilot runs to the helicopter, followed by a paramedic who plans the route from beside the pilot. This is a dangerous occupation and a pilot and crew were killed in Kent last year. Because they fly missions to sometimes difficult terrain, skilful and dedicated flying is needed.
At a cost of £60,000 per month to run, our Air Ambulance is always carrying only enough of a bank balance for 2 month's use. The pilots call from door to door asking for donations and fund raising activities are needed to keep it going. Included among these are
motor cycle runs, and a weekly lottery which for £1 per week offers prizes of £1000, £500, £250, £100 and some of £10. The AA have topped up the donations, allowing the helicopter, a Stretch Bolkow 105DBS, to fly over the weekend. Without those extra donations Shirley would have been treated to a slow bumpy ride across country just because it was sunday. It would have been far more serious if her injuries had been to the back or head.
Tomorrow I shall telephone 01245 444424 to ask if I may join the lottery scheme. I have reviewed the Essex Air Ambulance, but your county may well have a similar scheme. So when a guy calls at your door asking for donations, he could well be a dedicated pilot trying to keep his service going. Please give something. The last time this happened to me I was about to go to a cashpoint and my purse was almost empty. I searched the house for all my change and then took my parking money from the car. It wasn't much, but today I am so pleased that I did.
A final note. The helicopter rotas threw the seeded soil far and wide. Crop circles? :-)
Note. My information was largely supplied by the Essex Air Ambulance Newsletter and allied sites.