Why we fly
With the greatest of respect to the other people there, I immediately knew I was in safe hands when the air ambulance crew came. They were so on point, so professional. Their critical care training made such a difference.
Roofer James Turner was working on top of a 12 storey block of flats in Northampton city centre when he had an accident with a disc cutter.
The heavy duty power tool started to judder as he was cutting through the old roof surface in March this year.
James tried to control the cutter but suddenly, in his words, “it shot up, kicked back and cut through my left leg. The wound looked like I had been bitten by a shark.”
Blood was spurting out of a deep gash at the back of his upper thigh and James called out to the other roofers who were working nearby.
“I was in shock and my initial reaction was to run away but as soon as I put weight on my injured leg it crumbled beneath me like jelly. I put my hand down to feel what I had done and it went right into the hole in my leg,” he says.
A quick-thinking colleague made a tourniquet out of a high-vis vest to stop the bleeding as much as possible and a group of men carried James to the external lift which took him down to ground level where he was laid down in the car park until the ambulance arrived.
“People were coming out of the flats with dressing gown belts and other things to tie around my leg to try and stop the bleeding. By this time I was in a lot of pain,” says James (33) from Kettering.
First on the scene was a land ambulance followed by a paramedic in a car. They applied a medical tourniquet, but it wasn’t until the critical care crew from Warwickshire & Northamptonshire Air Ambulance arrived that James started to believe that he was going to be alright.
“With the greatest of respect to the other people there, I immediately knew I was in safe hands when the air ambulance crew came. They were so on point, so professional. Their critical care training made such a difference.”
“They knew exactly what they were doing. They gave me drugs which reduced the pain and relaxed me,” he says.
Due to the seriousness of James’s injuries it was crucial to get him to the nearest major trauma hospital as quickly as possible.
He was taken by land ambulance to the school playing fields where the helicopter had landed – near the scene of the accident – and then flown to University Hospital Coventry & Warwickshire 33 miles away by road in just 10 minutes.
The morning rush hour was coming to an end but the traffic would still have been heavy getting out of Northampton city centre, so transporting James by air was the quickest way of getting him to the urgent medical care he needed. Even with blue lights and sirens the journey by road would have taken about half an hour.
“Hospital staff were waiting for me on the helipad at Coventry and I was taken into the Emergency Department where the helicopter crew did a handover with doctors to explain what had happened to me and the treatment I had been given by them,” he says.
After a CT scan to check his injuries, James underwent an operation to repair the damage.
He was lucky that despite cutting down to the bone and through the hamstring and tendons, the main nerve between his spine and leg was intact. If that had been cut he has been told that he could have lost the use of his leg.
After three days in hospital, James was discharged with a leg brace which he had to wear for eight weeks. He returned to light duties at work for a while but is now in the process of setting up his own business.
“When I found out that the local air ambulance doesn’t get any funding from the Government, I was amazed. I couldn’t understand it. It blows my mind that it is a charity. I organised a Direct Debit to support them straight away,” says James.