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My story began in 2010 when I visited my doctors with bad headaches; they thought it was muscular, as I was a fit and healthy 32 year old PE teacher. I had to visit an osteopath and have regular massage to try and ease the pain. Fast forward to July 2012 and the headaches were worse than ever.
On 6th September my life changed forever when late that evening I collapsed while at home. I live in a small village called Maiden Bradley close to the Longleat Estate near Warminster.
I remember falling and managing to ask my fiancée to call 999 before losing consciousness. An ambulance was sent to our house and paramedics arrived to find me drifting in and out of consciousness. I showed symptoms of a stroke with pupils of different sizes and being incapable of moving one side of my body. As soon as they saw this they knew I needed specialist treatment and called for Wiltshire Air Ambulance.
They landed at Clay Hill - a night landing site for the helicopter – getting there within 6 minutes despite the worsening weather conditions and threat of fog. The land and air crews carried me over a gate and into the field where the Wh99 had landed. I have no recollection of these moments, but have been filled in by the crew.
I was flown to Frenchay Hospital in Bristol, where I suffered respiratory arrest and was sent straight for a scan. This showed that I had Hydrocephalus (fluid on the brain), in other words my brain was being crushed. I had emergency surgery to fit a drain and then three days later had another operation. They later told me that, I was lucky to be alive.
I owe my life to the skill and decision making of the ground crew: Judy Wilmott and Naomi Gillespie and also the air crew - Police Observer Nigel Gilbert, Paramedic Matt Baskerville and the Pilot - for their professionalism and willingness to fly in adverse weather conditions.
It was fate that I live in Wiltshire the only county in the country that has an Air Ambulance that flies at night. They got me to Frenchay within 11 minutes – if we’d gone by road it would have taken me over an hour to get there and it’s unlikely I’d be telling you this story now. My family would like to thank you from the bottom of their hearts.
The Wiltshire Air Ambulance is a charity that everyone in Wiltshire knows about, however unless you require its assistance, you don’t really appreciate how much it’s needed. We live in a vast county with all the specialist hospitals moving further afield. In my opinion we should view our charity in the same vein as car insurance - you pay it but hope never to use it. Car insurance costs hundreds of pounds, the Wiltshire air ambulance would cost £4 per person if everyone paid it…
It’s 5 months since my incident at the time of writing this. I am now recovering well and go back to work soon, I have been thinking about what might have happened if the Wiltshire Air Ambulance hadn’t been available.
I’m now trying to support the Air Ambulance and have been to the hanger to see the helicopter, have seen it fly off into the distance on another call. I’ve thanked the staff for their superb work and now act as a volunteer and public speaker, trying to spread the word to schools and other groups of the great work that they do. I bring with me videos and photos; I also answer questions and take donations. But I also carry the best thing of all - living proof that Wiltshire Air Ambulance is well worth while!