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If you're seriously ill or critically injured, every second counts,
especially if you're up high or off the beaten track.
But, thanks to these guys, the people of the UK's biggest county
are never more than ten minutes away from a hospital.
The Yorkshire Air Ambulance can do 150 miles an hour,
and every day brings a new life or death emergency.
Five million people depend on these yellow helicopters
to bring life-saving care from the skies.
When a multiple pile-up closes Britain's highest motorway,
or there's a serious accident on the shop floor,
the highly trained paramedics and pilots of the helimed team
are there to rescue the casualties.
Today on Helicopter Heroes, a family day out ends in a car crash,
and a passing mum turns medic.
Somebody was asking if we had a first-aid kit.
A man loses his fingers in a factory accident.
Can paramedic Sammy save them?
With so many nerve endings you get lots of pain,
so I'm drawing up a second dose should we need to give it in flight.
And a cyclist's badly injured.
Just going to pop you off to sleep in a little bit, mate, and get you off to hospital, OK?
It takes three years of hard study to qualify as a paramedic,
seven to become a doctor,
and more than ten to build up the experience
needed to be an Air Ambulance pilot.
It's a lot of expensive expertise, but the results can be priceless.
The steep hill that takes holiday traffic nearly 900 feet up Sutton Bank in North Yorkshire
is among the UK's most accident-prone A-roads.
It's blocked twice a week on average,
often by drivers underestimating its one-in-four incline.
Today, it's closed again.
Helimed 99 was refuelling at an airfield just five miles away
when the 999 call came.
This is Helimed 99. I've just been given a call to Sutton Bank
and will be landing there very shortly.
We've been called to a road traffic accident which is two minutes away.
Don't know what's involved yet, but we'll see pretty quick.
Pilot Chris has spotted a mansion with a large garden set into the hillside.
-I've just seen some wires in the corner, mate.
-Watch the wires.
The front lawn's about to become a helipad.
-Wires coming out.
-Yeah, I know. That goes to the house.
I'm going to put you on the corner of the lawn.
OK, just watch the tail, Chris.
There's a bush hanging out over the back. Have a look, mate.
That's all right, we're happy with that.
Watch to the left, three o'clock. No worries.
The smash has happened halfway up the hill.
A family hatchback's been in a collision with a tractor.
The car was carrying a family of five on their way to a day out
at an amusement park.
Three children are injured.
The crew of Helimed 99 are the first medics on scene,
but they already have help.
We need a couple of vehicles. Get two vehicles coming.
Mum of two Sarah Quinn was returning home to Otley near Leeds
after rain washed out a camping break when she came across the accident.
-This girl's having a lot of trouble with her stomach.
Sarah's been cradling five-year-old Samir in her arms.
There's a graze from her seatbelt,
but I think it's hurting quite a bit inside, isn't it? This gentleman's going to help you.
No-one else injured, just the children?
There were these two people, two adults, four children in a car.
We just pulled up when the crash had happened already.
Hello. My name's Simon.
Where does it hurt?
There. Oh, dear.
Samir's complaining that her tummy hurts.
Children are particularly at risk of internal injuries in car crashes.
Is it sore here? Are you OK?
Take a big breath like you're blowing a big balloon up. Good girl.
-Well done. I'm not going to hurt,
I just want to have a quick little tickle of your tummy, OK?
Sutton Bank is wet and slippery today.
The weather's been a factor in the accident.
We saw the tractor come round the bend, lost it on the bend,
and when we come round it happened, in literally seconds.
We just jumped out, got the kids out of the car,
just wrapped them up just to keep them calm, really.
We were about five cars behind and just saw the queue of traffic,
and just somebody was running up the hill
asking if we had a first-aid kit so I just went down.
The children had come out the car and were bleeding,
so I just took hold of Samir, cuddled and talked to her,
tried to keep her off the wet floor. It was horrible.
The little girl's mum and dad are shocked and hurt themselves,
and they've been caring for Samir's two sisters and their nephew.
The chest is hurting.
Abdo's all right, pelvis is fine,
good movement of limbs. This one I'm starting with now.
Flying doctor Simon Ward fears Samir may have a serious internal injury.
Look what I've got. Can I have a listen and see if I can hear your breakfast?
OK, it doesn't hurt. OK? I'm just going to have a listen.
You're ever so good. It's a bit cold.
Big breath like a balloon. Good girl.
And another one. Excellent. Let's listen for that breakfast.
The team has to make sure it's prioritising the most serious patients.
We need a board, PD collar.
-She's pale. Spleen's gone.
-I think so.
They badly need extra help.
We just want to get a board collar, get her stabilised.
For the ambulance service, time is critical.
And in some cases, the speed these guys react
can make the difference between a lifetime of disability
and a good recovery.
Emergencies don't come much more urgent than today's.
There's been a 999 call about an industrial accident
at a factory near Pontefract.
Reports of a gentleman apparently cut three of his fingers off.
We'll wait to see what we've got when we get there.
We're hoping to be able to take this patient to Leeds General Infirmary.
OK, no worries.
With modern surgical techniques, fingers can be re-attached,
but it's got to be done quickly.
The chopper's touching down in a delivery yard.
Clear of the post at the rear. Watch the benches.
Clear right rear.
-Thank you very much.
-OK, guys, good to go.
Patient Chris Hewitt is already being treated by a ground ambulance crew.
All right, chaps, how we doing?
This is Chris Hewitt, a 40-year-old gentleman, he's trapped his fingers.
We haven't given up yet. Those three are gone.
-One's still hanging on, we've got two on some ice.
He's had some tramadol.
Don't grab it, then, eh?
Don't you look, sweet. He don't want to look.
This gentleman, it looks like he's amputated some fingers.
He's got quite a lot of pain. We're just cleaning him up
and we're going to give him some better pain relief
and then take him.
The time it takes to get him and his severed fingers to hospital is critical.
James is alerting the microsurgery team at the Leeds General Infirmary.
They're experts in treating injuries like this.
The history is, he's a 40-year-old, he's haemodynamically stable,
and we'll be with you in approximately 15 minutes.
-Have we got the fingers to hand?
-They're in there.
We've wrapped them up in gloves.
Originally, they were just in a bag,
so I've come out and put them in there.
Fingers and hands, there's so many nerve endings,
you do get a lot of pain,
so I'm drawing up a second dose should we need to give it whilst in flight.
We are only going to be minutes into loading him,
but it's just belt and braces.
Left hand, three fingers.
I'm left-handed as well.
The advantage of going to Leeds is there's specialist hand surgeons there,
and what we want to do is, these fingers that have come off,
we've got the option of re-attaching them at the moment, OK,
because it's happening so quick.
40-year-old Chris's work mates haven't panicked.
They've collected up his fingers, wrapped them in plastic and put them on ice.
One's still hanging on, his little finger's still hanging on.
-Is it partially attached?
-Bone's all stuck out and everything.
That's great, thank you very much.
The patient won't want to see that bit.
They've done a great job, but Sammy's worried they may be too cold.
Ice burns are a real problem for surgeons.
They can kill healthy tissue.
This is the gentleman's finger.
I'm just going to get rid of half of the ice, actually.
That's it. Then it won't fall out.
At the moment, technically, it could just receive an ice burn.
-Been on a helicopter before?
-Gets really noisy...
Chris is in shock but time's ticking by.
James knows every lost minute reduces his patient's chances
of a successful graft.
The helimed crews are all volunteers.
The paramedics are paid by the NHS,
but some of the flying doctors actually give their time for free.
Two wheels may be the greenest way to get around on the roads,
but it's also among the most dangerous
and Helimed 99 is about to touch down at the source of accident all paramedics dread -
car versus cyclist.
If the person is unconscious, they're generally unconscious because of a head injury.
25-year-old Ben Walker was thrown from his bike and landed on his head.
He looks like he may have a serious head injury,
despite the helmet he was wearing.
On the crew today is Dr Jez Purnell, the hospital anaesthetist.
His skills are badly needed.
He's been unconscious since he came off the bike.
He went straight over the handle bars.
He's reacting a bit more now to the pain, but he's quite agitated.
Ben is refusing to cooperate with his rescuers.
It's behaviour that's completely out of character.
Their patient was out for a spin on his new bike,
wearing all the right gear - and that probably saved his life.
His helmet shows the force of the impact.
I need to know you can hear what I'm saying.
Stick your tongue out if you can hear what I'm saying. You what, buddy?
The ground paramedics were with Ben within minutes of his fall
on a quiet road on the outskirts of Sheffield.
They began the battle to stabilise his condition.
Now it's up to the helimed team to get him to hospital.
Dr Jez faces anaesthetising his patient where he lies.
Just drawing up something just to sedate him a little bit.
The problem is, he's quite agitated,
we can't get him out of the position he's in, we can't lie him flat.
We need him flat to pop him off to sleep, so we are going to
give him something to numb him up a bit so we can get him
into a reasonable position where we can then anaesthetise him.
We need to take over his respiration ourselves,
so this is like, alone that we do it, instead of the patient.
Once Jez anaesthetised him, all the respiratory effort will stop,
so he's not breathing,
so we have to breathe for him.
Now under sedation, Ben's about to be anaesthetised.
He won't wake up until doctors are satisfied his brain isn't damaged
or it's had time to recover, and that could be days or weeks.
Ben, I'll pop you off to sleep in a minute, mate, and get you off to hospital, OK?
A breathing tube must be carefully slipped down Ben's windpipe.
It's a delicate operation.
there's Quite a lot of blood in his airway.
-But they've done it.
It went quite smoothly at the side of the road.
The patient's now sedated, we can maintain an airway.
The accident's happened a few miles from Sheffield's Northern General Hospital and its trauma unit.
But sometimes the helimed team bypass local hospitals to deliver
badly injured patients to a specialist unit.
Ben will instead be flown 40 miles to Leeds General Infirmary
and its state of the art neurological ward.
It's a case of getting him to definitive care now at Leeds,
which is where the neuro ICU unit is.
What we are worried about in patients like this is if they've got
bleeding in the brain, that can be taken out by an operation.
The quicker you get that done, the better, so you don't have
a secondary transfer from a hospital without neurosurgery on site. It's a really, really good thing.
Ben's now minutes away from specialist care.
But brain injuries are hard to diagnose, and only time will reveal the seriousness of his condition.
It's six months since the accident that nearly killed him.
And Ben is meeting paramedic Tony Wilkes,
one of the team who saved his life.
My first real memories are vague. I remember phoning people from the hospital,
and then forgetting that I'd phoned them and it took a long time
for friends, family and the doctors to convince me anything
was wrong with me because I didn't see any cuts and bruises on me.
I think because it'd been such a long time, I didn't know what was going on with it.
It was only when I tried to walk and I couldn't, I realised I wasn't doing quite so well.
There is always a big debate as to whether cycle helmets are worth it,
but I've been to so many and it's saved people.
I think having the right team, the right skills
and the speed to do what they did for me probably means I lasted longer than perhaps they thought
I was going to, and I managed to make a recovery, so that's really good, yes.
Now, let's return to the scene of that serious accident
on a steep hill in North Yorkshire.
The team has its work cut out.
On the edge of the North York Moors, the crew of the Helimed 99
are caring for the casualties of a serious accident - a family of five
on their way to a theme park
have been badly injured in a crash with a tractor.
She's injured her abdomen in the crash so we're going to get her
flat on the board, oxygen on, pain relief, then get her off to hospital.
Now ground crews are arriving at the scene.
Dale's paramedic, Pete Shaw, is based 20 miles away,
but he was just down the road when the 999 call came in.
Now, he's joining the rescue operation.
In this car here, you can see the impact.
All passengers were restrained,
doesn't look as though they were in paediatric seats.
-Little girl, looks like she's got a spleen injury.
Just assessing the other two kids, who seem fine. Dad's there.
There's a little girl in his arms and they all seem fine.
Five-year-old Samir Udin is the most severe casualty.
Oh! You're doing ever so well. We are going to get a blanket and keep you warm.
I've got air, it's a special necklace that goes right round, OK.
Holiday-maker Sarah Quinn's been looking after her.
Paramedic Pete is helping Lee care for six-year-old Sanjida.
-You're five, aren't you? Five?!
They're worried about this deep cut to her head.
Samir's dad Nazar was driving the family's car.
I've had a good look at her and she's obviously wide-awake...
Little Tia, who's just two, is also hurt.
When she's had the seatbelt on, it's just bruised her tummy, OK.
So we'll take her to hospital
because I want her to be seen by the doctor there quickly. OK?
Fine, just give them a check over and give them all the details.
OK, that'll do. And down...
Sanjida and Samir are now ready for a flight to hospital.
-It's time for Sarah to say goodbye to Samir.
Her mum's now sheltering her from the rain,
although she herself is hurt.
We've got a second helicopter coming.
It's just a case of landing sites now.
We are keeping ours, because ours are the most serious patients
and we want quick access once she's stabilised,
then the other helicopter will land further down the road
to take the second patient.
The Great North Air Ambulance has been called in to fly Sanjida.
Doctors at the James Cook Hospital in Middlesbrough are already
on stand-by to examine both girls.
Imagine losing your fingers.
It's the nightmare faced by one man after an accident at work
and he's just about to find out if the doctors can graft them back on.
Factory worker Chris Hewitt has severed three fingers
while using an industrial saw.
His little finger is only just attached to his hand
and his ring and middle fingers have been cut clean off.
What we've got at the moment is that little finger,
in-between your knuckle and finger, that's a partial amputation, and these two are just here.
OK? The actual fingers that have come off are in good nick.
This is where Helimed 98 comes into its own.
Chris is minutes from surgery.
But James is still pumping him for information. The smallest details can help the surgeons.
What type of machine is it?
-Is it a saw or a circular spinning one?
-A circular saw.
I went to pull one forward...
..my hand's gone into the blade.
The saw that removed his fingers made a clean cut.
That's good, but the accident happened on a factory floor.
Infection's a real risk.
There'll be lots of people here who'll want to look at you and have a prod and a poke,
just try to be patient, mate, OK.
Six floors below the Leeds General Infirmary helipad,
an operating theatre is being prepared for Chris.
Microsurgeons can now reconnect severed nerves
and tiny blood vessels, but it's more art than science.
Straight in to see the doctors now, mate, OK.
The team don't know whether Chris has seen the last of his fingers.
Nice and steady, pal. Swing your legs across first. That's it.
This is Christopher, 40-year-old male, been on a cross-cutter,
like circular saw that cuts wood.
Basically caught his hand in-between, got a full amputation,
approximal to his IPJ, on his ring and middle finger
and partial amputation on his little finger.
Fingers have both been on ice since amputation.
Within an hour of his arrival, Chris was being operated on.
Surgeons devised a complex repair
using what was left of his fingers and skin taken from his arm.
And three days later, he's out of danger.
If they hadn't got me here as fast,
and my fingers, I probably wouldn't have got them back on.
They had to do skin grafts, nerve and vein graft on them two I think.
I've got a skin graft off my arm, a skin graft off the top of my leg
and they've cut nerves and veins from my feet.
It could take up to 12 months to get my feelings back,
but I'll never have full movement on it,
I'll never be able to make a fist like that, I'll be able to do that
at the most, but not that.
I'm happy with that anyway, as long as my fingers are there.
I'd sooner have fingers there than none at all.
I'll get there eventually, I'll not let it beat me.
I'll keep persevering with it.
Chris still remembers the moment he realised he'd lost his fingers.
I felt the pain so I knew I'd done some damage.
So I put my hand over my left hand and I shouted my friend.
I looked and saw my finger on the bench and I just says,
"Get my finger and make sure it goes on some ice."
It's still touch-and-go for Chris. Reattachment can fail.
But three weeks after the accident, he's back at the LGI
to be examined by the doctors who saved him.
-How are things going?
In Christopher's case, the fingers that he brought in
were in good condition
and the little finger was attached on,
so we were able to fix that on with a wire.
The middle and ring finger, he had good bone structure in them
and good blood vessels and tendons.
That meant that it was possible to put them back on
and we were very lucky that that worked.
Sometimes it stings a little bit,
but it's not something I can't cope with.
I've not really had any pain from it at all, really, from doing it.
The downside is that some of his knuckles have been fused
so he'll lose a bit of movement with that.
But unfortunately, where he'd cut them off was through the joint
so we couldn't save the joint surface there.
But he's done really well so far and now it will be over to
the physiotherapist and occupational therapist to get him as much movement as possible.
Now, let's catch up on the family caught up
in a serious road accident on a day out.
On a steep hill near the market town of Thirsk, the flying paramedics
are preparing to take off with a young victim of a serious car crash.
Holiday-maker Sarah Quinn's been looking after five-year-old Samir.
Now she's on her way to hospital.
The Great North Air Ambulance will take her six-year-old sister
Sanjida to the same unit.
You're doing ever so well.
I know it's very noisy, that's the other helicopter, for your sister, OK?
Mum's just coming in a minute, OK.
Pilot Chris landed in a back garden of a house just off the busy A 170.
No-one was in.
The dents three tonnes of chopper have left in the lawn
may well be the source of some confusion when they get home.
We think she's got an abdominal injury to her tummy
which has been injured by the seat belt,
is what it looks like.
She's stable, she's had strong pain relief
and seems much more settled now.
Samir could be very badly hurt.
She's told flying doctor Simon Ward that her tummy's hurting.
He fears she could have internal injuries.
We're getting her to one of the trauma centres as soon as possible
so that she can be further evaluated and the surgeons can see her.
The James Cook Hospital is home to one of the north's best trauma units.
In a few minutes, Samir will be undergoing tests and scans on her tummy.
Her six-year-old sister Sanjida is just minutes behind her.
Despite the huge forces involved in the crash, there's a happy ending.
Neither sister has more than cuts and bruises.
The family is soon reunited to the relief of holiday-maker
Sarah Quinn, whose reassuring presence helped the victims
in the first minutes after the crash.
It was really quite a shocking scene to see
and they were just so upset and all cut and covered in blood.
It was really, really horrible.
The child that I went to was a very similar age to my son who's five.
It was just harrowing to see how upset she was.
As a mother, it just really, really hit me how awful it was
and how scared they were.
She was absolutely petrified.
Her eyes kept lolling back in her head
and I was really worried that something was seriously wrong.
I was just holding this tiny child and she just seemed so fragile
and so in pain and she was crying, she was hurting.
It was just awful.
The accident has left Sarah with traumatic memories of the crash
on one of Yorkshire's busiest holiday routes.
Our friends invited us to go to the East Coast in a couple of months.
We're going, but we're going to take a different route
because there's no way I'm going to go on Sutton Bank again.
And Samir's family say they'll never forget the stranger
who cared for their little girl.
Thanks for watching.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd