Notes From The Cotswolds – Everyday Heroes by Penny Parkes
As an author, you become accustomed to looking deeper, to taking a peek behind the scenes, even reading the body language of the couple talking-but-not-talking at the next table in a restaurant. So, I think it’s fair to say that it takes quite a lot to surprise me.
But the team at Great Western Air Ambulance Charity have taken my breath away – so much so, that it’s taken me a few days to process everything I saw on my visit to their base on Publication Day, in order to do justice to the experience when sharing it with you.
The team I met last week were not unique to GWAAC, but in a wider sense they truly are – Jim (pilot), Vicky (Critical Care Paramedic), Rich (Critical Care Doctor) and Jack (paramedic on Critical Care training path) flew two sorties during my visit. Two of the five to thirteen they fly every day. And their calm, assured professionalism was exactly what anyone could ever hope for in a crisis.
For that is their business – the call for an Air Ambulance isn’t something taken lightly. They are not, as sometimes perceived, merely a means for speedy transportation to hospital – these teams save lives, by resuscitation, by road-side surgery if needs be. Running from a landing site, with several 17-kilo packs of equipment, they are running towards someone, or often more than one someone, in critical condition. Triage is their constant consideration.
The bond between these incredible professionals is almost tangible, even though teams vary from shift to shift. I’m tempted to say it’s the common goal they share that brings them together, or indeed the understanding of what ‘a bad day at work’ truly means.
The CEO, Anna, is vivacious and passionate about her cause. A relatively new Air Ambulance charity, celebrating their tenth anniversary this year, she is dedicated to making their standard the Gold Standard and her commitment gave me goosebumps as she talked me through their plans for a new base, even as the team were heading out for another emergency, rotor blades already whirring on the helipad. A new base for the team means kitting out a whole new set-up – and since they are run as a charity, their fund-raising efforts have, by necessity, ramped up this year. Three million pounds a year just to keep them running – covering a vast area of 2.1 million people – I can’t help but do the maths in my head. We all expect them to be there for us in our moment of need, and the price of a cappuccino each would tip the balance. Food for thought.
As I drove away from the base, having arrived with thoughts of Larkford, and my fictional Air Ambulance pilot Chris Virtue in my head, I couldn’t help but think that this team, and their everyday heroics, knock fictional heroes into a cocked hat. To them, as they say, ‘it’s just their job’ – but their grace and good humour has left me in awe.
It was certainly a Publication Day that I will never forget, so do watch this space for a few exciting ways to keep the rotors turning and the real-life Chris Virtues in the sky.
Best Practice is out now in paperback.