Roger Clark, a farmer in Crudwell, north Wiltshire, had fundraised for Wiltshire Air Ambulance for many years. He never thought that he would need its services but on 31 January 2016 he was airlifted, as he explains.
“Several years ago, I read a story in the local newspaper about a farmer whose life was saved after an accident because he had been flown by air ambulance to hospital from a remote location. It was then I realised that there must be many people in rural Wiltshire working in places difficult to reach by emergency services.
The article also mentioned that the service was a charity funded by donations from the public. Since then I have been supporting Wiltshire Air Ambulance, including taking part in the annual Startley Tractor Run and buying Christmas raffle tickets. My son has also donated money from charity cycle rides.
I never dreamed that one day it would be me using that valuable service.
On January 11th 2016 I had open heart surgery in John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, to repair two leaking heart valves and replace another. Because my heart was rather slow to recover, a week later I was fitted with a pacemaker.
I returned home and began to get stronger and fitter as the days went by, so it was a surprise when three weeks after the operation I felt a bit light headed when I got down for breakfast. This dizziness came and went during the morning so Kath, my wife, rang the ward in John Radcliffe to ask for advice. They said to get me to A&E. With help, I got as far as the kitchen before my legs gave way. Kath dialled 999 as I sat on a chair.
A first responder arrived after 16 minutes, followed by another a few minutes later and shortly after that by an ambulance. The paramedics quickly realised that I was very ill as my heart was struggling to pump blood round my body.
Knowing that it would take at least an hour to get me to Oxford by road to receive specialist cardiac care, Wiltshire Air Ambulance was requested to attend as it would take them only 12 minutes to fly there. It landed in the rather muddy field behind our house, nine minutes after it took off from Devizes.
Jo and Ben, the two paramedics from Wiltshire Air Ambulance, quickly took charge, examined me and I was loaded into the helicopter.
At John Radcliffe’s A&E I was diagnosed with a pericardial effusion, a build-up of fluid around my heart which was stopping it from working. I hadn’t been in the Critical Care Unit many minutes when my heart stopped, so a drain had to be inserted quickly and I was given CPR. Almost a litre of fluid was removed.
When my family saw me about 15 minutes later, Kath said it looked as though someone had flicked a switch to turn my lights back on. I had colour in my face and I was smiling and talking. I was discharged fit and well five days later.
Because I had been taken by air and not by road, the team in Oxford had been given valuable time to work out that I had a very rare reaction to my heart surgery. One surgeon with 25 years’ experience could only recall two previous occurrences.
I have since made a full recovery and am back working on the family farm, thankful that our county is served by such a dedicated and highly trained team of life savers.”