Why we fly

Adrian’s Story

“I don’t take anything for granted and want to do as much as I can to pay back what the air ambulance did for me. I cannot believe it is not funded by the NHS - it should be top of the list. I want to make people more aware of how hard the air ambulance crews work to save lives and the more money that can be given to the charity, the more emergency cover they can provide.”

Adrian O'Donnell

When Adrian – a self-employed electrician – went into cardiac arrest in the back of an ambulance parked outside his home in July 2020, paramedics fought to save his life for over an hour.

He kept rearresting and a defibrillator was used on him multiple times in an attempt to stabilise his condition so he could be safely transported to hospital.

But it became evident to the ambulance crew that more specialist medical interventions were needed to save Adrian’s life, so they requested that the local air ambulance doctor and critical care paramedic attend the scene of the incident.

Within just 12 minutes of receiving a call, a crew from the Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Rutland Air Ambulance (DLRAA) arrived in a critical care car to provide emergency care for Adrian.

To give his heart the best chance of recovering and to improve his oxygen levels, Adrian was anaesthetised and intubated – vital medical interventions that are normally only carried out in a hospital setting.

This stabilised Adrian’s condition so that he could be taken to University Hospital in Coventry in the land ambulance. The air ambulance doctor travelled with him and had to restart Adrian’s heart three times on the journey.

Watching on in horror as all this unfolded outside the house was Adrian’s partner Jane Staufenbiel who had dialled 999 earlier when Adrian complained of feeling unwell and had a very grey complexion.

She says: “When the ambulance crew arrived, they said Adrian’s heart was racing and he needed to go to hospital. I got his dressing gown, and he gave me a kiss and said he would see me later.

Adrian was taken out to the ambulance in a wheelchair, and I watched from the front window.

The ambulance didn’t move for a while and then suddenly it started bouncing up and down, which I now know is because Adrian had gone into cardiac arrest, and they were working on him. Eventually, he was brought out of the ambulance on a trolley.

It was very traumatic to watch what was happening to Adrian. The crews were so busy treating him they didn’t have time to talk to me, so I didn’t really know what was going on.”

It wasn’t until she arrived at the hospital, after following the ambulance in a car driven by her daughter, that Jane was told Adrian was still alive.

While her partner was being treated in the emergency department, Jane had to wait outside the hospital due to the COVID restrictions that were in place.

“Eventually I was told he might not come off the ventilator and if he did, he could be brain dead, so I was allowed in with the family to see him because they didn’t think he was going to make it. He is very very lucky to be alive,” she says.

Doctors in the specialist cardiology department at the hospital discovered that Adrian had a blocked artery and they fitted a stent to improve his blood flow.

Amazingly after four days, Adrian was well enough to be discharged but in the following months his condition worsened and in October 2020, he underwent a heart by-pass operation.

Adrian is now (May 2022) slowly starting to work again but he gets very tired if he does anything too physical.

What happened to him has had a profound effect on both him and Jane. But despite struggling emotionally, the couple are determined to do all they can to support the local air ambulance.

They say: “It has always been our charity of choice but, like most people, we never thought we would need the services of the local air ambulance. Now we want to do all we can to support it and encourage others to do the same.”

“Adrian’s story highlights the difference between life and death that being treated by the air ambulance crew can make.”

Adrian adds: “I don’t think I would be alive today if Jane had not called 999 and started the process that resulted in the air ambulance coming to me. I am therefore very passionate about raising funds for the charity.”

“Other people I know are helping and my very good friend James Buttell ran the Leicester Half Marathon back in October 2021 for the local air ambulance, raising £2,000 – enough to fund one lifesaving mission.”

“I hope my story shows the knock-on effect the charity has when it saves lives; this being on families, friends, and the public. You NEVER know when you will need them, so please support the local air ambulance if you can.”