Why we fly

Helen’s Story

We were kept updated on the phone about what was happening so we knew they were coming, but when I saw the helicopter in the sky I got emotional. It must have been shear relief

Helen Keats

Derbyshire, Leicestershire & Rutland Air Ambulance (DLRAA) has been described as “an absolute necessity” which “should get all the money it needs to keep operational – even during the current Covid-19 crisis,” by a patient who was flown in the helicopter five weeks ago.

Experienced walker Helen Keats was enjoying being outside on a beautiful day at the top of Mam Tor hill near Castleton in the Peak District when she slipped on muddy ground.

“I heard something snap and when I looked down my right foot was sticking out at an odd angle. It was quite apparent that I wasn’t getting up and moving any time soon,” she says.

Helen’s daughter called 999 and used the what3words app on her phone to share their location.

Due to the remote scene of the accident DLRAA and Edale Mountain Rescue Team were deployed to attend the incident.

Helen (61) – who was on a family day out with Amber and her husband Robin – were in good spirits while she waited for help to arrive.

“We were kept updated on the phone about what was happening so we knew they were coming, but when I saw the helicopter in the sky I got emotional. It must have been shear relief,” she explains.

The air ambulance landed on the hill above them after the family were asked by ambulance control, to wave to identify themselves whilst the crew were overhead, as there were lots of other people around enjoying the good weather and views at the time.

Shortly afterwards the Mountain Rescue Team arrived at the scene.

Helen had a fracture/dislocation to her ankle so the air ambulance doctor and critical care paramedic administered strong pain relief medications and applied a vacuum splint to support the injured limb.

“They did a great job and managed to straighten my foot and ankle out, so it looked a lot better,” she says.

With the help of the Mountain Rescue Team members, Helen was carried on a stretcher to the helicopter and loaded on board for the short flight to Northern General Hospital in Sheffield – which took just 7 minutes.

From the top of Mam Tor where she was, the alternative extrication would have been for Helen to be carried back down the hill by mountain rescue to an awaiting land ambulance and taken by rural roads to Sheffield – an uncomfortable and much slower way of getting her to the medical care she needed.

Helen’s husband and daughter watched the helicopter take off and then walked back down the hill to their car and drove straight to Sheffield which took them about 90 minutes.

The air ambulance landed on the hospital’s helipad which is just a short walk and trolley push from the main Emergency department. The crew then handed Helen over to the awaiting trauma team.

The following day, Helen underwent an operation to repair the damage to her foot and ankle. Four days later she was discharged and driven back to her home in Plymouth, sitting in a wheelchair in a specially adapted vehicle.

Five weeks on from the accident – which happened on 16th March– Helen and Robin have nothing but praise for DLRAA.

“The crew were so efficient and very professional. They kept us informed and were very reassuring about what was happening to Helen. They couldn’t have done anything better.”

“We would like to thank the air ambulance crew, mountain rescue team and all the kind people who asked if we needed help when we were waiting for the emergency services to arrive.”

“We think that the air ambulance should be paid for and not rely on donations to operate. It truly is a lifesaver and deserves to get all the money it needs, even in the current crisis. It’s an absolute necessity,” they say.