Why we fly
It was terrifying, really scary but the air ambulance crew told me exactly what they were going to do and I knew I was in safe hands. If I had panicked then my condition would have got much worse
West Midlands NHS support worker Ellie Milner – who is currently following Government advice not to leave home for 12 weeks during the Covid-19 crisis – was on a camping holiday to celebrate being with her partner Joe for a year when she had the worst asthma attack of her life.
At the time she was at the top of a hill about a mile into a walk at Grindsbrook Clough in The Peak District, Derbyshire.
Her inhaler was at the bottom of the hill with Joe so he climbed up to join Ellie and they sat together on a rock while she tried to get her breath back.
“My inhaler wasn’t helping and we started to worry as it was the worst attack I have ever had. To make a bad situation worse there was no phone signal so we couldn’t call an ambulance,” says Ellie, who has suffered with asthma since she was six years old.
Joe, who works as a nurse, asked a group of passers-by to stay with Ellie while he ran back to phone 999 at the pub where they started the walk.
When the land ambulance arrived it couldn’t drive any further than the pub so the crew had to get to Ellie on foot.
They were giving her oxygen and nebulisers when Derbyshire, Leicestershire & Rutland Air (DLRAA) landed in a nearby field.
By then Ellie (27) was really struggling to breathe. The oxygen saturation levels in her blood had dropped and she was exhausted.
“It was terrifying, really scary but the air ambulance crew told me exactly what they were going to do and I knew I was in safe hands. If I had panicked then my condition would have got much worse,” she explains.
By now volunteers from Edale Mountain Rescue arrived at the scene, they put Ellie on to a stretcher and then carried her to where the air ambulance had landed.
“Prior to being loaded onto the aircraft, the air ambulance team were becoming more concerned about my condition. They made the decision to anesthetise me so that they could take over my breathing during the flight to hospital. I felt so unwell when they explained what they were going to do, but I knew it was the right thing as I didn’t have much breath left in me. I remember being put to sleep but nothing that happened after that,” she says.
Ellie was flown to the Northern General Hospital in Sheffield where she was put on a life support machine for two days. On waking she “felt a lot better” and a few days later was able to attend a planned appointment with the respiratory nurse specialist at the local hospital.
Since the incident in August 2016, new medication has helped Ellie to manage her asthma. However the condition has still caused her to be hospitalised occasionally and she is deemed to be “at risk”, which is why she is currently staying at home in Tividale, Oldbury during the Covid-19 crisis.
“If the helicopter crew hadn’t treated me at the scene that day or flown me to hospital I don’t think I would have made it back down to where the land ambulance was – and who knows what could have happened.”
“I thought the air ambulance was part of the NHS and I had no idea that it is a charity. Without donations it might not have been there to help me when I needed it. I hope sharing my story raises awareness of the lifesaving work of the air ambulance and funds for the charity,” says Ellie.
She and Joe are due to be married in August. They are hoping the ceremony will go ahead but keeping an open mind in the current situation the country is in.