Episode 6 Helicopter Heroes


Episode 6

A look at the work of the Yorkshire Air Ambulance. Paramedic Sammy is determined to save the fingers of a factory worker, severed in an accident with an electric saw.


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Transcript


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If you're seriously ill or critically injured, every second counts,

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especially if you're up high or off the beaten track.

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But, thanks to these guys, the people of the UK's biggest county

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are never more than ten minutes away from a hospital.

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The Yorkshire Air Ambulance can do 150 miles an hour,

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and every day brings a new life or death emergency.

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Five million people depend on these yellow helicopters

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to bring life-saving care from the skies.

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When a multiple pile-up closes Britain's highest motorway,

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or there's a serious accident on the shop floor,

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the highly trained paramedics and pilots of the helimed team

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are there to rescue the casualties.

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Today on Helicopter Heroes, a family day out ends in a car crash,

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and a passing mum turns medic.

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Somebody was asking if we had a first-aid kit.

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A man loses his fingers in a factory accident.

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Can paramedic Sammy save them?

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With so many nerve endings you get lots of pain,

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so I'm drawing up a second dose should we need to give it in flight.

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And a cyclist's badly injured.

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Just going to pop you off to sleep in a little bit, mate, and get you off to hospital, OK?

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It takes three years of hard study to qualify as a paramedic,

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seven to become a doctor,

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and more than ten to build up the experience

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needed to be an Air Ambulance pilot.

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It's a lot of expensive expertise, but the results can be priceless.

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The steep hill that takes holiday traffic nearly 900 feet up Sutton Bank in North Yorkshire

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is among the UK's most accident-prone A-roads.

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It's blocked twice a week on average,

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often by drivers underestimating its one-in-four incline.

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Today, it's closed again.

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Helimed 99 was refuelling at an airfield just five miles away

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when the 999 call came.

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This is Helimed 99. I've just been given a call to Sutton Bank

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and will be landing there very shortly.

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We've been called to a road traffic accident which is two minutes away.

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Don't know what's involved yet, but we'll see pretty quick.

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Visual, yeah.

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Pilot Chris has spotted a mansion with a large garden set into the hillside.

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-I've just seen some wires in the corner, mate.

-Watch the wires.

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The front lawn's about to become a helipad.

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-Wires coming out.

-Yeah, I know. That goes to the house.

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I'm going to put you on the corner of the lawn.

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OK, just watch the tail, Chris.

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There's a bush hanging out over the back. Have a look, mate.

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That's all right, we're happy with that.

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Watch to the left, three o'clock. No worries.

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The smash has happened halfway up the hill.

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A family hatchback's been in a collision with a tractor.

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The car was carrying a family of five on their way to a day out

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at an amusement park.

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Three children are injured.

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The crew of Helimed 99 are the first medics on scene,

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but they already have help.

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We need a couple of vehicles. Get two vehicles coming.

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Mum of two Sarah Quinn was returning home to Otley near Leeds

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after rain washed out a camping break when she came across the accident.

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-This girl's having a lot of trouble with her stomach.

-Right, OK.

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Sarah's been cradling five-year-old Samir in her arms.

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There's a graze from her seatbelt,

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but I think it's hurting quite a bit inside, isn't it? This gentleman's going to help you.

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No-one else injured, just the children?

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There were these two people, two adults, four children in a car.

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We just pulled up when the crash had happened already.

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Hello. My name's Simon.

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Where does it hurt?

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There. Oh, dear.

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Samir's complaining that her tummy hurts.

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Children are particularly at risk of internal injuries in car crashes.

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Is it sore here? Are you OK?

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Take a big breath like you're blowing a big balloon up. Good girl.

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-Brilliant.

-Well done. I'm not going to hurt,

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I just want to have a quick little tickle of your tummy, OK?

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Sutton Bank is wet and slippery today.

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The weather's been a factor in the accident.

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We saw the tractor come round the bend, lost it on the bend,

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and when we come round it happened, in literally seconds.

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We just jumped out, got the kids out of the car,

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just wrapped them up just to keep them calm, really.

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We were about five cars behind and just saw the queue of traffic,

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and just somebody was running up the hill

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asking if we had a first-aid kit so I just went down.

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The children had come out the car and were bleeding,

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so I just took hold of Samir, cuddled and talked to her,

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tried to keep her off the wet floor. It was horrible.

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The little girl's mum and dad are shocked and hurt themselves,

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and they've been caring for Samir's two sisters and their nephew.

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The chest is hurting.

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Abdo's all right, pelvis is fine,

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good movement of limbs. This one I'm starting with now.

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Flying doctor Simon Ward fears Samir may have a serious internal injury.

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Look what I've got. Can I have a listen and see if I can hear your breakfast?

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OK, it doesn't hurt. OK? I'm just going to have a listen.

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You're ever so good. It's a bit cold.

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Big breath like a balloon. Good girl.

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And another one. Excellent. Let's listen for that breakfast.

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Good girl.

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The team has to make sure it's prioritising the most serious patients.

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We need a board, PD collar.

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-She's pale. Spleen's gone.

-Spleen?

-I think so.

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They badly need extra help.

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We just want to get a board collar, get her stabilised.

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For the ambulance service, time is critical.

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And in some cases, the speed these guys react

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can make the difference between a lifetime of disability

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and a good recovery.

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Emergencies don't come much more urgent than today's.

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There's been a 999 call about an industrial accident

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at a factory near Pontefract.

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Reports of a gentleman apparently cut three of his fingers off.

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We'll wait to see what we've got when we get there.

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We're hoping to be able to take this patient to Leeds General Infirmary.

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OK, no worries.

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With modern surgical techniques, fingers can be re-attached,

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but it's got to be done quickly.

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The chopper's touching down in a delivery yard.

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Clear of the post at the rear. Watch the benches.

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Clear right rear.

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-Thank you very much.

-OK, guys, good to go.

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Patient Chris Hewitt is already being treated by a ground ambulance crew.

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All right, chaps, how we doing?

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This is Chris Hewitt, a 40-year-old gentleman, he's trapped his fingers.

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We haven't given up yet. Those three are gone.

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-One's still hanging on, we've got two on some ice.

-Brilliant.

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He's had some tramadol.

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Don't grab it, then, eh?

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Don't you look, sweet. He don't want to look.

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This gentleman, it looks like he's amputated some fingers.

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He's got quite a lot of pain. We're just cleaning him up

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and we're going to give him some better pain relief

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and then take him.

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The time it takes to get him and his severed fingers to hospital is critical.

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James is alerting the microsurgery team at the Leeds General Infirmary.

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They're experts in treating injuries like this.

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The history is, he's a 40-year-old, he's haemodynamically stable,

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and we'll be with you in approximately 15 minutes.

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-Have we got the fingers to hand?

-They're in there.

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We've wrapped them up in gloves.

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Originally, they were just in a bag,

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so I've come out and put them in there.

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Fingers and hands, there's so many nerve endings,

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you do get a lot of pain,

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so I'm drawing up a second dose should we need to give it whilst in flight.

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We are only going to be minutes into loading him,

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but it's just belt and braces.

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Left hand, three fingers.

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I'm left-handed as well.

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The advantage of going to Leeds is there's specialist hand surgeons there,

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and what we want to do is, these fingers that have come off,

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we've got the option of re-attaching them at the moment, OK,

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because it's happening so quick.

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40-year-old Chris's work mates haven't panicked.

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They've collected up his fingers, wrapped them in plastic and put them on ice.

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One's still hanging on, his little finger's still hanging on.

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-Is it partially attached?

-Bone's all stuck out and everything.

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That's great, thank you very much.

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The patient won't want to see that bit.

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They've done a great job, but Sammy's worried they may be too cold.

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Ice burns are a real problem for surgeons.

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They can kill healthy tissue.

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This is the gentleman's finger.

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I'm just going to get rid of half of the ice, actually.

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That's it. Then it won't fall out.

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At the moment, technically, it could just receive an ice burn.

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-Been on a helicopter before?

-No.

-Gets really noisy...

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Chris is in shock but time's ticking by.

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James knows every lost minute reduces his patient's chances

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of a successful graft.

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The helimed crews are all volunteers.

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The paramedics are paid by the NHS,

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but some of the flying doctors actually give their time for free.

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Two wheels may be the greenest way to get around on the roads,

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but it's also among the most dangerous

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and Helimed 99 is about to touch down at the source of accident all paramedics dread -

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car versus cyclist.

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If the person is unconscious, they're generally unconscious because of a head injury.

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25-year-old Ben Walker was thrown from his bike and landed on his head.

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He looks like he may have a serious head injury,

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despite the helmet he was wearing.

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On the crew today is Dr Jez Purnell, the hospital anaesthetist.

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His skills are badly needed.

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He's been unconscious since he came off the bike.

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He went straight over the handle bars.

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He's reacting a bit more now to the pain, but he's quite agitated.

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Ben is refusing to cooperate with his rescuers.

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It's behaviour that's completely out of character.

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Their patient was out for a spin on his new bike,

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wearing all the right gear - and that probably saved his life.

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His helmet shows the force of the impact.

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I need to know you can hear what I'm saying.

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Stick your tongue out if you can hear what I'm saying. You what, buddy?

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The ground paramedics were with Ben within minutes of his fall

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on a quiet road on the outskirts of Sheffield.

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They began the battle to stabilise his condition.

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Now it's up to the helimed team to get him to hospital.

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Dr Jez faces anaesthetising his patient where he lies.

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Just drawing up something just to sedate him a little bit.

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The problem is, he's quite agitated,

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we can't get him out of the position he's in, we can't lie him flat.

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We need him flat to pop him off to sleep, so we are going to

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give him something to numb him up a bit so we can get him

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into a reasonable position where we can then anaesthetise him.

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Absolutely fine.

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We need to take over his respiration ourselves,

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so this is like, alone that we do it, instead of the patient.

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Once Jez anaesthetised him, all the respiratory effort will stop,

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so he's not breathing,

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so we have to breathe for him.

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Now under sedation, Ben's about to be anaesthetised.

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He won't wake up until doctors are satisfied his brain isn't damaged

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or it's had time to recover, and that could be days or weeks.

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Ben, I'll pop you off to sleep in a minute, mate, and get you off to hospital, OK?

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A breathing tube must be carefully slipped down Ben's windpipe.

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It's a delicate operation.

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Tube, mate.

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there's Quite a lot of blood in his airway.

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-But they've done it.

-OK.

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It went quite smoothly at the side of the road.

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The patient's now sedated, we can maintain an airway.

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The accident's happened a few miles from Sheffield's Northern General Hospital and its trauma unit.

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But sometimes the helimed team bypass local hospitals to deliver

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badly injured patients to a specialist unit.

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Ben will instead be flown 40 miles to Leeds General Infirmary

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and its state of the art neurological ward.

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It's a case of getting him to definitive care now at Leeds,

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which is where the neuro ICU unit is.

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What we are worried about in patients like this is if they've got

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bleeding in the brain, that can be taken out by an operation.

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The quicker you get that done, the better, so you don't have

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a secondary transfer from a hospital without neurosurgery on site. It's a really, really good thing.

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Ben's now minutes away from specialist care.

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But brain injuries are hard to diagnose, and only time will reveal the seriousness of his condition.

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It's six months since the accident that nearly killed him.

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And Ben is meeting paramedic Tony Wilkes,

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one of the team who saved his life.

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My first real memories are vague. I remember phoning people from the hospital,

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and then forgetting that I'd phoned them and it took a long time

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for friends, family and the doctors to convince me anything

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was wrong with me because I didn't see any cuts and bruises on me.

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I think because it'd been such a long time, I didn't know what was going on with it.

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It was only when I tried to walk and I couldn't, I realised I wasn't doing quite so well.

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There is always a big debate as to whether cycle helmets are worth it,

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but I've been to so many and it's saved people.

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I think having the right team, the right skills

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and the speed to do what they did for me probably means I lasted longer than perhaps they thought

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I was going to, and I managed to make a recovery, so that's really good, yes.

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Now, let's return to the scene of that serious accident

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on a steep hill in North Yorkshire.

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The team has its work cut out.

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On the edge of the North York Moors, the crew of the Helimed 99

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are caring for the casualties of a serious accident - a family of five

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on their way to a theme park

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have been badly injured in a crash with a tractor.

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She's injured her abdomen in the crash so we're going to get her

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flat on the board, oxygen on, pain relief, then get her off to hospital.

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Now ground crews are arriving at the scene.

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Dale's paramedic, Pete Shaw, is based 20 miles away,

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but he was just down the road when the 999 call came in.

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Now, he's joining the rescue operation.

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In this car here, you can see the impact.

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All passengers were restrained,

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doesn't look as though they were in paediatric seats.

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-Little girl, looks like she's got a spleen injury.

-Right.

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Just assessing the other two kids, who seem fine. Dad's there.

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There's a little girl in his arms and they all seem fine.

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Five-year-old Samir Udin is the most severe casualty.

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Oh! You're doing ever so well. We are going to get a blanket and keep you warm.

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I've got air, it's a special necklace that goes right round, OK.

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Holiday-maker Sarah Quinn's been looking after her.

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Paramedic Pete is helping Lee care for six-year-old Sanjida.

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-You're five, aren't you? Five?!

-Six.

-Sorry, six.

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They're worried about this deep cut to her head.

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Samir's dad Nazar was driving the family's car.

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I've had a good look at her and she's obviously wide-awake...

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Little Tia, who's just two, is also hurt.

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When she's had the seatbelt on, it's just bruised her tummy, OK.

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So we'll take her to hospital

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because I want her to be seen by the doctor there quickly. OK?

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Fine, just give them a check over and give them all the details.

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OK, that'll do. And down...

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Sanjida and Samir are now ready for a flight to hospital.

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-It's time for Sarah to say goodbye to Samir.

-Take care...

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Her mum's now sheltering her from the rain,

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although she herself is hurt.

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We've got a second helicopter coming.

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It's just a case of landing sites now.

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We are keeping ours, because ours are the most serious patients

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and we want quick access once she's stabilised,

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then the other helicopter will land further down the road

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to take the second patient.

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The Great North Air Ambulance has been called in to fly Sanjida.

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Doctors at the James Cook Hospital in Middlesbrough are already

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on stand-by to examine both girls.

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Imagine losing your fingers.

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It's the nightmare faced by one man after an accident at work

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and he's just about to find out if the doctors can graft them back on.

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Factory worker Chris Hewitt has severed three fingers

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while using an industrial saw.

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His little finger is only just attached to his hand

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and his ring and middle fingers have been cut clean off.

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What we've got at the moment is that little finger,

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in-between your knuckle and finger, that's a partial amputation, and these two are just here.

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OK? The actual fingers that have come off are in good nick.

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This is where Helimed 98 comes into its own.

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Chris is minutes from surgery.

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But James is still pumping him for information. The smallest details can help the surgeons.

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What type of machine is it?

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-Is it a saw or a circular spinning one?

-A circular saw.

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I went to pull one forward...

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Ouch.

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..my hand's gone into the blade.

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The saw that removed his fingers made a clean cut.

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That's good, but the accident happened on a factory floor.

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Infection's a real risk.

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There'll be lots of people here who'll want to look at you and have a prod and a poke,

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just try to be patient, mate, OK.

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Six floors below the Leeds General Infirmary helipad,

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an operating theatre is being prepared for Chris.

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Afternoon.

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Microsurgeons can now reconnect severed nerves

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and tiny blood vessels, but it's more art than science.

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Straight in to see the doctors now, mate, OK.

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The team don't know whether Chris has seen the last of his fingers.

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Nice and steady, pal. Swing your legs across first. That's it.

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This is Christopher, 40-year-old male, been on a cross-cutter,

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like circular saw that cuts wood.

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Basically caught his hand in-between, got a full amputation,

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approximal to his IPJ, on his ring and middle finger

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and partial amputation on his little finger.

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Fingers have both been on ice since amputation.

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Within an hour of his arrival, Chris was being operated on.

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Surgeons devised a complex repair

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using what was left of his fingers and skin taken from his arm.

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And three days later, he's out of danger.

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If they hadn't got me here as fast,

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and my fingers, I probably wouldn't have got them back on.

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They had to do skin grafts, nerve and vein graft on them two I think.

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I've got a skin graft off my arm, a skin graft off the top of my leg

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and they've cut nerves and veins from my feet.

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It could take up to 12 months to get my feelings back,

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but I'll never have full movement on it,

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I'll never be able to make a fist like that, I'll be able to do that

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at the most, but not that.

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I'm happy with that anyway, as long as my fingers are there.

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I'd sooner have fingers there than none at all.

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I'll get there eventually, I'll not let it beat me.

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I'll keep persevering with it.

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Chris still remembers the moment he realised he'd lost his fingers.

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I felt the pain so I knew I'd done some damage.

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So I put my hand over my left hand and I shouted my friend.

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I looked and saw my finger on the bench and I just says,

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"Get my finger and make sure it goes on some ice."

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It's still touch-and-go for Chris. Reattachment can fail.

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But three weeks after the accident, he's back at the LGI

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to be examined by the doctors who saved him.

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-How are things going?

-Looking good.

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In Christopher's case, the fingers that he brought in

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were in good condition

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and the little finger was attached on,

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so we were able to fix that on with a wire.

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The middle and ring finger, he had good bone structure in them

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and good blood vessels and tendons.

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That meant that it was possible to put them back on

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and we were very lucky that that worked.

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Sometimes it stings a little bit,

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but it's not something I can't cope with.

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I've not really had any pain from it at all, really, from doing it.

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The downside is that some of his knuckles have been fused

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so he'll lose a bit of movement with that.

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But unfortunately, where he'd cut them off was through the joint

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so we couldn't save the joint surface there.

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But he's done really well so far and now it will be over to

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the physiotherapist and occupational therapist to get him as much movement as possible.

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Now, let's catch up on the family caught up

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in a serious road accident on a day out.

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On a steep hill near the market town of Thirsk, the flying paramedics

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are preparing to take off with a young victim of a serious car crash.

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Holiday-maker Sarah Quinn's been looking after five-year-old Samir.

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Now she's on her way to hospital.

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The Great North Air Ambulance will take her six-year-old sister

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Sanjida to the same unit.

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You're doing ever so well.

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I know it's very noisy, that's the other helicopter, for your sister, OK?

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Mum's just coming in a minute, OK.

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Pilot Chris landed in a back garden of a house just off the busy A 170.

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No-one was in.

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The dents three tonnes of chopper have left in the lawn

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may well be the source of some confusion when they get home.

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We think she's got an abdominal injury to her tummy

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which has been injured by the seat belt,

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is what it looks like.

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She's stable, she's had strong pain relief

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and seems much more settled now.

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Samir could be very badly hurt.

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She's told flying doctor Simon Ward that her tummy's hurting.

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He fears she could have internal injuries.

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We're getting her to one of the trauma centres as soon as possible

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so that she can be further evaluated and the surgeons can see her.

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The James Cook Hospital is home to one of the north's best trauma units.

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In a few minutes, Samir will be undergoing tests and scans on her tummy.

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Her six-year-old sister Sanjida is just minutes behind her.

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Despite the huge forces involved in the crash, there's a happy ending.

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Neither sister has more than cuts and bruises.

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The family is soon reunited to the relief of holiday-maker

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Sarah Quinn, whose reassuring presence helped the victims

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in the first minutes after the crash.

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It was really quite a shocking scene to see

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and they were just so upset and all cut and covered in blood.

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It was really, really horrible.

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The child that I went to was a very similar age to my son who's five.

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It was just harrowing to see how upset she was.

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As a mother, it just really, really hit me how awful it was

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and how scared they were.

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She was absolutely petrified.

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Her eyes kept lolling back in her head

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and I was really worried that something was seriously wrong.

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I was just holding this tiny child and she just seemed so fragile

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and so in pain and she was crying, she was hurting.

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It was just awful.

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The accident has left Sarah with traumatic memories of the crash

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on one of Yorkshire's busiest holiday routes.

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Our friends invited us to go to the East Coast in a couple of months.

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We're going, but we're going to take a different route

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because there's no way I'm going to go on Sutton Bank again.

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And Samir's family say they'll never forget the stranger

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who cared for their little girl.

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Thanks for watching.

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Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:26:360:26:39

A look at the work of the Yorkshire Air Ambulance. Two mums turn medics after a serious car crash on a busy holiday route - and paramedic Sammy is determined to save the fingers of a factory worker, severed in an accident with an electric saw.


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