Suffolk: Fight for our air heroes

THE dedication of the region’s air ambulance crews is today laid bare as The Ipswich Star launches a campaign to raise �10,000 to help the service introduce night flying – the first of its kind in the country.

Yesterday morning a crew from the East Anglian Air Ambulance (EAAA) flew to the scene of a serious crash on the A14, close to the Orwell Bridge.

A woman, believed to be in her 30s, died at the scene of the three-vehicle crash in the westbound carriageway at Nacton at around 10.20am – despite the valiant efforts of the crew, who performed open heart surgery on the road.

The charity’s crews regularly take to the skies above the region to attend medical emergencies, serious crashes and incidents, able to transport critically injured patients to hospital faster than land ambulances.

In many cases their work is the difference between life and death and today The Ipswich Star launches its Lifesaver Appeal to raise �10,000 for the East Anglian Air Ambulance, to buy crucial equipment to enable the service to carry out their life-saving work 24 hours a day.

The charity, which operates two helicopters, Anglia One and Two, serving Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire, aims to raise enough money to buy around ten wireless communications kits for crews to wear, to improve the service ahead of the launch of their night service this winter.

Dr Jeremy Mauger, chief doctor at the EAAA, said: “This kit will transform the ability of the pilot and medics to work together – creating a safer environment and improving our operational efficiency, especially during ‘hot-loading’, when the medics leave the aircraft to attend a patient and the pilot stays on board with the engine running for a quick turnaround.

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“During night time operations, the kit will prove invaluable as the crew will often be out of visual contact with each other and need a reliable and safe way to communicate.”

The current equipment restricts crews, as they have to be physically connected to the helicopter via wires. The new hands-free kits allow safer and easier communication between pilot and crew and features a unique “noise cancellation” feature to suppress background noise, making communications clearer.

Charity chief executive Tim Page said: “What we are seeking to do is increase the service, to become the first air ambulance in the UK to fly at night.

“In order to be able to get permission to fly at night we have to demonstrate we can operate as safely and effectively as we do during the day.

“It increases the difficulty for crews and clinicians flying at night and securing this equipment is all part of that process to provide greater assurance that we will be able to deliver an identical service at night.”

It is hoped, once the charity’s third helicopter is in action in the autumn, the first night flights will take off in November.

“Put simply, if you have a crash at 9pm in the summer, the difference between life and death will be the speed at which you can be attended to by qualified medics,” Mr Page added. “That is fine in the summer because we fly later.

“But in the winter, when it gets dark earlier, we are restricted and can only fly during daylight hours. If a serious crash happens at night during the winter, patients face a reduced chance of survival.”

n Do you want to thank the air ambulance for its help? Call Star newsdesk with your stories on 01473 324788 or starnews@archant.co.uk

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