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Imagine turning up for work every day knowing you could face a life-or-death situation.
That's what it's like for the men and women of the emergency services.
They often have to put their lives on the line to save us.
This is Real Rescues.
Tonight, a 16-year-old girl suffers a broken back in a car crash.
One false move by the paramedics and her spine could be severed.
If she wasn't treated very carefully, she'd never walk again.
The firefighters are called to a treetop rescue.
A paraglider clings on to branches 70ft up.
Any movement by him to try and climb down would result in
possible broken neck, possible death.
Animal rescuer Jim Green can't believe his ears...
Got called to a snake in a car.
..or his eyes.
It's an 11ft python stuck halfway in a wheel arch.
An emergency call has come through to traffic cop Tony Flatman.
We're on our way to this RTA in Langstone,
they're calling for the fire brigade to cut one of the people out.
It's a head-on collision close to the marina on Hayling Island.
-Hello, Phil. You all right?
-We'll get Sam to do a road closure.
Local police are already on scene and gathering information.
The young driver of the blue Renault misjudged a 90 degree bend
and ploughed straight into the Rover coming the other way.
John Bailey, the driver of the Rover,
is on holiday with his wife's parents
and they were in the back seat of the car.
Luckily, none of the people in John's car has any serious injuries.
The other driver and two of the youngsters in his car are also fine,
but it's a different story for 16-year-old Charlotte.
You're doing well there, Charlotte.
My back really hurts!
Paramedic Dick Tyne is calling the air ambulance
after finding a lump on Charlotte's spine.
I've got a 16-year-old female, middle-seat passenger
with just a lap restraint in a Renault Clio,
with a quite a bit of deformity on a frontal impact.
She's actually got quite pronounced seat-belt burn marks
on both sides abdo, and she's got back pain.
Now, we're on Hayling,
and it's gonna be a bit of a lumpy journey to get her off.
The accident's in a remote spot,
so the air ambulance is needed to transfer her to hospital safely.
Heli Meds are scrambling.
Although Charlotte's lap belt has given her some protection,
it's not as protective as the more usual three-point seatbelt.
The actual impact with a lap belt
tends to throw the whole of the body forwards,
placing a lot of strain on the lower back, the spine.
We've got the chopper coming down to take her up to QA.
We need some way of getting her out
with the least possible aggro to her back.
When we examined the patient
we found she had what we call a step in the spine, a lump.
'Now, this shows the vertebrae are now out of their alignment,
'and there is pressure on the spinal cord that runs down the middle.
'If you move it fractionally more,
'that can cut that spinal cord completely.'
If you do that, they will be paraplegic at the very least.
This day out was part of the driver's birthday celebrations,
but it's turned into a day
which could change the future for this teenager.
-We've got him marking it.
-We get the others to do glass.
-And then we go from there.
Mark, can you sort something out on glass management?
Crew manager Nev Lewindon and his team
decide that they will have to cut the roof off the car
before Charlotte can be freed.
Before they can start cutting, the car must be stabilised.
Any sudden movement
could have disastrous consequences for Charlotte.
Paramedic Joe Robb is inside,
monitoring her for any change in her condition.
Now the car is stable, the fire crew can cut through the post
and windscreen to take off the roof.
It's a noisy and frightening ordeal for Charlotte.
The next step is to get her safely out of the car without allowing her to move at all.
It's going to take all the expertise of the emergency services
to save Charlotte from permanent paralysis.
In a few minutes we'll see
as they start the crucial lift out of the vehicle.
Imagine heading off to a beautiful hillside, taking your own flying machine out of your rucksack,
and then silently lifting off into the sky.
Around 5,000 people go paragliding regularly.
It's a great way to see the countryside in peace and quiet.
However, a sudden drop in wind can change all that.
We'll be right there.
An emergency call comes in to Dorchester Fire Fighters.
It's an accident that's not exactly run-of-the-mill.
This paraglider pilot is in a very dangerous position.
He's hanging on to the topmost branches of a 70-foot oak tree
and no-one knows how long the branches will hold his weight.
It's going to need advance rescue skills to get him down.
Incident Commander Dave Cooper and one of his expert climbers from the Special Rescue Unit
are immediately on their way to the scene in the police helicopter.
We've had people trapped up trees before,
but in this incident, the person is right on the very crown of the tree.
The immediate danger is the casualty will slip and fall.
On a large tree like this, the branches are not all uniform,
as it would be on a building or a tower crane.
How safe are the branches? Are the branches rotted through?
Any movement by him to try and rescue himself or to climb down
could easily have resulted in him falling out of the tree,
which would result in broken bones,
possible broken neck, possible death.
The plan was I would climb the tree
with two lines attached to me,
setting up safety systems as I went up the tree.
The plan then was to attach the lines I had attached to myself to the pilot.
He would be lowered to the ground by the people on the ground.
So the plan is in place. And when Bob reaches paraglider Roy, he's a welcome sight.
Roy is clinging on to the branches for dear life.
He's as high as a four-storey building.
I knew we had to be quite quick,
to actually get up there and secure him
to make him feel safe and reassured.
They've completed the first stage of the rescue, but Roy is far from home and dry.
It's vital that he does exactly what the experts tell him if he's to get down in one piece.
Rescuer Bob is now in the crown of the tree
Dave and Ben are in the lower branches, controlling things from below.
Bob's attached to the tree.
-He understands that both are going on him?
They've rigged up a pulley system which will be operated from ground level.
Now Bob just has to get the rescue harness on securely and he's ready to go down.
-Can you ease the line without getting your fingers trapped cos there's a lot of friction?
Got that leg down.
It's a long way down. Fortunately, Roy is able to help himself in this rescue.
The lower branches could do him some damage, but he is able to push his way through them.
-If we come in through that tree, through to you, Ben...
With everybody watching, including his children,
his relief is as apparent as his embarrassment.
You have to send me to hospital(!)
Daddy's down now.
-Just smile this way.
-Yeah, thank you very much.
About six foot, Bob!
The teamwork has paid off and Roy is back to earth,
and even his paraglider has survived without a tear.
But suddenly, there is one member of the family who can contain himself no longer.
It's Leonardo, the Gordon Setter, overjoyed to see his master back on earth.
Once safe, Roy recalls how he ended up perching in that tree for nearly two hours.
I've been flying beats which are just laps up and down the ridge here.
Heading off along the ridge, I must have hit a pocket of cold air
and obviously suddenly lost a bit of altitude,
at which stage my feet managed to hit the top of one of the tree canopies,
causing the wing to overfly me and me to fall into the oak tree.
But for the expertise of the specialist Fire and Rescue Unit, it could have been very different.
Without the backup of our safety systems, there's a very good possibility he'd slip and fall.
Back on Hayling Island, the emergency services
are fighting to save 16-year-old Charlotte from paralysis.
She's trapped in the back seat of a car following a head-on collision.
Paramedic Dick Tyne has a plan to get her out whilst keeping
her spine completely immobilised.
What we'll do, see this thing here, it's a special flexible board
to put behind your back and strap you to it, all right?
Once that's done we'll get you a special board, the helicopter will have landed,
we'll get you on there, and go off up to hospital.
OK. All you've got to do is relax and keep nice and still.
'Myself and Joe my colleague decided to use a KED,
'which stands for Kendrick Extrication Device.'
To think of it as a girdle, which straps not only the torso
but the legs and the head.
'So you can immobilise someone to this before putting them on to a spinal board.'
The Air Ambulance has just arrived.
It's ready and waiting to take Charlotte to hospital.
This young man here is Chris, a friend of mine, he is in the chopper crew.
He's gonna have a little feel down your back,
and see the bump you've got. OK?
Chris confirms Dick's fears about Charlotte's spinal injuries.
He then gives morphine to ease the pain.
'When we give pain relief, we've got to be very careful
'so that it doesn't mask your symptoms,
'because if I anaesthetise you at the scene,
'I've got no way of ascertaining,'
whether anything I'm doing is causing any problems
with the injury you've already got.
'We gave her enough to relax her slightly.'
Just enough to take the edge off it.
Despite her pain, Charlotte is managing to be very brave and calm.
Meanwhile, traffic cop Tony Flatman
needs to know how severe her injuries are so he can manage this case correctly.
Dick grabs a moment to update him.
I'm not that concerned about the internal injuries
at the moment because she's not showing any signs of bruising.
But the main concern is her spine. Yeah.
It makes a difference to our investigation who we call out, how far we take it,
whether we're going to be calling crash investigation units,
scenes of crime, photographers.
It's the critical moment when Charlotte must be got on to the long board.
It takes the combined skills of all the emergency services,
11 people in all, to carefully edge her out of the car wreckage.
The blocks immobilise her head and neck.
The foil will be wrapped around to prevent her body temperature from dropping.
She's out, and Dick's doing his best to put her at ease.
This is nice and warm now. Wrap you in paper foil, Gas Mark 6, you'll be done in no time!
On a scale of severity, although it wasn't life-threatening,
if you put life-threatening into another bracket,
it was the worst injury you could possibly suffer,
especially at that age in life.
It had the certainty that if she wasn't treated
very, very carefully, Charlotte would never ever walk again.
Two, three, lift.
You're going to go in to the aircraft now, into a bit of a tunnel,
-when you come out the other end, I'll be sat next to you, OK?
-See you later.
In just five minutes, the teenager will be in hospital where they can fully assess her injuries.
If she's damaged her spinal cord, it will mean life in a wheelchair.
But if it's only the spine itself which is fractured, the prospects are much brighter.
We'll be talking to Charlotte as she starts her recovery.
The ambulance service often provides a lifeline to older people,
always there in case of emergencies,
but it's wrong to think of their most senior patients
as the most frail. They may need extra help every so often,
but they're sometimes the most resilient
and independent characters, as you're about to find out.
It's a bright, sunny day,
and ambulance crew Graham Collins and Gail Inman are on their way
to help a 94-year-old who's had a fall at a country park.
Rita Tasker had been enjoying the sunshine with her sister-in-law, Doreen,
when suddenly she found herself the centre of attention,
something she hates.
She's fallen and hit her head, so Doreen's called 999.
Are you really fed up?
I don't want to come with you.
-How about if we just sit you in the ambulance...
-How about... Come on!
-..have a little look, and go from there.
We can't make you go anywhere.
If I don't, she'll make me.
I've got all her medicine things and everything else here.
Thanks to everybody.
Rita's fallen down outside the tea room and has a nasty cut on her ear
which needs stitches.
All this fuss is more than enough for Rita - she doesn't want even more when she gets home.
But Doreen's had other ideas.
I hope nobody tells my kids, because they'll go mad.
I've got to let them know, obviously, love. I must.
Or else I shall be in trouble, you know that!
You don't mind being in trouble for five minutes, do you?
I'm not having that!
Perhaps you won't tell Warren and Barry.
-Oh, you will, big mouth, you will!
-I've got to!
-I feel responsible for her.
-They won't like it very much,
cos they'll say, "You should have stopped her falling!"
-So it serves you right. Your fault!
They had a very strong relationship,
I think, because they could say anything to one another
and it wasn't taken the wrong way.
We come down here a lot in the summer.
I said, "We might be able to go down there if we wrap up warm."
-So it's all your fault, then.
-Yes it is, it's all your fault.
It was like a comedy double act. They were bouncing off each other.
It's important to get to the bottom of what's caused Rita to fall,
so Graham needs to get a sample of blood.
Look, the doctors keep on taking blood, if you keep on taking blood, how d'you expect me to live?
Where do you want it?
HE LAUGHS I'll just take it off your finger. Little scratch coming up!
-We only took a little drop.
-I feel all right now.
You can keep the rest.
If I thought you could go home, of course we'd let you. We'd even take you home, but we can't.
After a lot of persuasion, she's on her way to A&E.
It's a very common occurrence for us to turn up and old people
not want to go to hospital. They're independent.
A lot of these people have been through a lot of hard times.
They won the war for us. They're hard characters, and they're not going to give up their independence easily.
When she can get a word in edgeways, Gail's still trying to find out more about Rita's general health.
There's certainly nothing wrong with her wit.
What health problems do you suffer with, Rita?
-What do I suffer with?
DOREEN: Just before Christmas, she had a slight heart attack.
Oh, for pity's sake! Oh!
Gail's bandaging invites more good-natured banter from Rita.
Do you know, I only had my hair done yesterday.
I know, it's rotten, isn't it?
It's not right, is it?
So far, it's been a light-hearted call-out but suddenly, the mood changes.
-I've got a pain in my chest now.
-Have you, sweetheart?
-Have you got a pain there?
Well, you know...
No, I'm all right.
If you've got pain there, we need to get you at least lying down.
-No, I'm all right.
-Have you still got it there now?
No, it's gone off again now.
It's only where I had my coffee. Honestly, I'm all right.
But Rita's not winning this time. Gail and Graham take the pain very seriously.
I hope my sister-in-law's enjoying all this.
I'm sure she's not. I'm sure it's the last thing she wants to see.
I've always dreaded something like that might happen.
Well, it hasn't, so you haven't got to worry, have you?
You two are a pair, aren't you?
Rita was at her ease. She had somebody with her who knew her
that she could rely on, and it was a less threatening environment for her.
Aren't you glad I'm your sister-in-law?
You wouldn't have all this excitement if I wasn't.
I don't know what I'm thinking at the moment, I can tell you.
'Anybody that complains of chest pains, you have to take seriously
'and I think at that point,'
she realised that there was something else going on
or potentially something else that was going on.
Pain getting worse, is it?
Yes, it is a bit.
It's time to get the blue lights on and head for A&E as quickly as possible.
Rita? I'm going to make a bit of noise going up there, all right?
So don't be alarmed with me making lots of noise.
Don't worry about me.
Gail starts sending all details of Rita's test to the hospital emergency department.
Graham's in no doubt that Rita's in the best place.
It could have been quite innocent, but we had to eliminate all possibilities,
make sure that there wasn't something more sinister happening.
That's why she's in A&E - not just for the head injury,
but for the possibility of something underlying that caused her to fall in the first place.
It turns out that it was absolutely the right thing to persuade Rita to go to A&E,
as we'll find out later.
Jim Green is on shift with the Hampshire Animal Rescue Unit,
when suddenly a call comes in that stops him dead in his tracks.
-PHONE: 'Hi, Jim. How are you?'
-I'm all right, mate.
Now, listen, I've got a call to a snake in...a car in Southampton.
Did he say a snake in a car?
-Apparently it's trapped in a car.
-'Sorry, did you say IN the car?'
In the car.
But it's not just any old snake.
It's a three-year-old, 11-foot-long albino python.
Not easy for a rescuer who's more used to handling livestock with legs.
Jim's going to need some help, so he's straight onto his colleagues for back-up.
Yeah, but it's trapped apparently.
Jim's tries the RSPCA for support but they're busy, so his next call
is to Anton Phillips, another animal rescue specialist.
'It'll be active, very active.'
Yeah. But I haven't really got anything to put it in, apart from the big dog cage.
He gets there to find the car parked by a pub close to the common.
It's packed with people enjoying the sunshine.
Although it's not venomous, this snake kills its prey by crushing,
and it could be a danger to the public.
HX Romeo Oscar One, over.
Danny, the snake's owner, called in when it started to disappear.
So what's the score, then?
Why are they in the car?
-Because we were going to the common to take them for a walk.
-Taking them for a walk?
Snake-walking is clearly a popular pastime for this family.
The back of their hatchback is their means of transporting the creature.
Every member of this family seems happy to be around snakes, large or not so large.
What's he like with the heat?
-He's all right with heat, is he?
-Likes the heat, yeah.
-Is that the boy one or the girl? Cos we've got two.
That one's her.
Right... I think we'd better get Big Red Toolbox out here, actually.
Big Red Toolbox is Jim's name for the special equipment unit,
which will cut the car apart to get at the snake.
You can just see the python in right-hand corner of your picture.
The other half has disappeared into the bodywork of the car.
It found a hole in the boot, in the cowling, where you change your bulbs
for the rear light cluster,
and it had disappeared up through there into the skin of the car.
And then they tried to get the thing out, and all it had done is expanded.
It had contracted to get into this small hole, disappeared through about two feet and then
it had just expanded and was not something that you were going to be able to pull out.
We don't want him to come all the way through. We want him to back-up.
That's it, yeah.
-But that's going to be tricky...
-He can't go no further anyway.
You haven't tried pulling him out, have you?
We tried pulling him out but he keeps like squeezing himself forward.
He would because animals like to go forwards rather than backwards.
Let me get a special equipment unit on the road...
Suddenly, Jack the snake is on the move.
He's trying to come back, mate.
Hang on. He's probably better to try and see if he'll do it on his own.
He's coming back out.
It's an astonishing sight - 11 feet of snake reversing out of a hatchback's wheel arch.
I don't know. I'll tell you in a minute.
Right, we've got to be careful he doesn't hurt himself now.
He's trying to come out on his own now.
He's gone in the boot of the car... Oh, he's coming out. That's good.
-It's all right. I'll give you a ring back in a minute.
Oh, he's out!
The family are overjoyed to have Jack the snake back with them.
He's soon in Danny's arms, getting the once-over for any injuries.
He's not been damaged at all?
'As the snake was withdrawing itself, I was a little bit concerned
'that it would damage itself'
on the metalwork, because its scales are positioned so that
it goes through nicely forwards but they were starting
to get a bit hooked up as it was coming out, so I was concerned it was going to damage itself.
But, fortunately, there was no problem there.
-And that's Jill, is it?
Jill's...this other one.
-OK. So Jill's at home?
Thank you ever so much.
So there you go.
Must've been your talk that got him out. Your little talk.
Yeah, he's lovely, isn't he? Lovely.
This Burmese python is still only half-grown.
He could get up to 25 feet long.
People in the snake pet industry don't recommend a Burmese python as your first snake.
They are quite a handful, they do eat a lot and they have been known to be unpredictable.
It's not every day your snake gets stuck in the boot of the car, is it?
Jack's causing quite a sensation in the car park, and even Jim wants his own photo of this one.
Jim will probably never have a rescue like this again.
So all's well. Jim can now stand down the special equipment unit, the car's still in one piece,
and Jack the python and his family can get on with their walk in the park.
-This is normal, is it, bringing him out for a walk?
-Let him run round in the sunshine.
All the kids like it. It's not very often you see a big snake.
-No, certainly not.
-It's certainly been a rescue to remember.
-Are you taking that thing in swimming?
-Well, he is.
If they let us put him in, yeah.
Thanks a lot.
Legally, a python is not classed as a dangerous wild animal, so the family are quite free
to take the snake out, so long as it's under control.
Time to update you on the other people featured on tonight's Real Rescues.
Charlotte, the back-seat passenger in the car accident
DID break her back,
but luckily, her spinal cord wasn't damaged.
However, she did need surgery.
Has it? Where's it been hurting?
At the bottom here.
'They put this plate in and they said'
that's to secure it and then, back in November,
when they take it out, hopefully it's healed
and they won't do any damage more,
but they did say I'll have to just be very careful what I do and stuff like that.
It shouldn't have any proper long-term damage.
They said it wasn't far enough up the back.
It was quite low down, luckily, so that was quite fortunate.
Roy the paraglider pilot who got stuck 70 feet up when he crashed into a tree -
well, there's no keeping a good man down.
As soon as Roy could rescue his paraglider,
he was back in the air again.
I'm pleased to say I've not been involved in anything else since then.
I intend to just enjoy my flying from here on in.
Leonardo, no doubt, will spend a few more hours watching his master in the sky.
As for Rita Tasker, she's back out and about again with her sister-in-law, Doreen.
She did suffer a very mild heart attack after her fall
and needed five stitches for the cut on her ear.
'Perhaps I refused to grow really old.'
Perhaps that's it. I don't know.
All the while I can do these things, I must do them.
As for her son and family, they're happy for her to stay just the way she is.
Ask anyone of the family, and it would be 100% in agreement.
She's very, very stubborn.
Very difficult at times.
We love her to bits, but we still say very stubborn,
and I think sometimes that's maybe what's kept her going.
Join me next time for more of the fantastic work
from the men and women of our blue-light services
when we're back on call for Real Rescues.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
Nick Knowles presents the painstaking rescue of a 16-year-old girl at risk of paralysis after a car crash. Fire crews are called out to save a paraglider hanging on for dear life 70 feet up in an oak tree, and the animal rescue specialists can't believe what they're hearing or seeing - an 11-foot snake is stuck in a car!