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‘People say I would have died without the helicopter’

Octogenarians Gordon Slack and Tom Smith have been friends for more than 20 years.

They share many interests including being members of the Coventry & Ansty branch of the Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust, but since May they have another common bond – both have been airlifted by their local air ambulance.

The former employees of Rolls-Royce in Parkside, Coventry are both keen supporters of the charity that saved their lives and they are encouraging local people to get involved with Air Ambulance Week –which runs until Saturday – to raise funds to keep our helicopters flying.

“The Air Ambulance Service receives no government funding and every mission they fly costs £1,700 so public donations are vital to keep it operational,” says Tom (81).

He had a heart attack in May whilst walking his dog in the village of Whatcote near Shipston-on-Stour where he lives in south Warwickshire. He was rushed home by a passing car and his wife rang 999. Within minutes the air ambulance landed in a nearby paddock and Tom was airlifted to Coventry’s University Hospital.

“People say I would have died without the helicopter,” he said.

Before this happened, Tom was already making regular donations to us. He was impressed by the way we saved his friend Gordon’s life in September 2005 when he was crushed by his car in a freak accident at Draycote Water, near Rugby.

Gordon (83), of Coundon in Coventry, was at the reservoir for a day’s fishing. He parked his car on a slope and went down to the water’s edge. Suddenly someone shouted that his car was rolling into the water.

“I ran back and two friends and I physically tried to stop it. We couldn’t and the car ran over me and dragged me under. One of the others rang the emergency services,” Gordon said.

His multiple injuries were some of the worst seen by air ambulance paramedics who had to literally hold his chest together and do CPR as the helicopter flew him to hospital.

He was in an induced coma for two weeks and spent a further six weeks in intensive care before starting a period of rehabilitation on the long road to recovery.

“I’ve had an extra ten years of life thanks to the air ambulance,” says Gordon.

As a way of saying thank you, every year he and his family take part in the Rugby Lions Club sponsored walk around Draycote Water to raise money for Warwickshire & Northamptonshire Air Ambulance.

“It means a lot to me to be able to do the walk,” he says.

Tom and Gordon are doing their bit to support us and are hoping local people will follow their example and donate during Air Ambulance Week.

Every mission costs approximately £1,700 and on average we attend six rescue missions a day.

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