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21 Anniversary Celebration Launched with Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex

Thames Valley Air Ambulance has kicked off its 21st anniversary celebrations with Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex, the charity’s crew and former patients at an event at White Waltham Airfield. The charity has dedicated the anniversary to its former patients and families, theming the eight week celebration, ‘Patients at Heart’.

The air ambulance service also released new figures showing that to the end of July 2020, it had been dispatched to 24,561 call-outs since launching the service in 1999.

White Waltham Airfield was the charity’s first operating base and it was from there that the air ambulance service was dispatched to attend to The Countess of Wessex, when she herself experienced the vital care of the air ambulance emergency service in 2001.

Her Royal Highness was given a tour of the Thames Valley Air Ambulance helicopter, invited to step into the pilot’s seat as well as being shown some of the advanced medical equipment onboard. She also met with former patients of the charity, Charlotte Ballard, Spencer Hillier and Ross Dilnot.

Charlotte spoke to Her Royal Highness about her life-threatening incident in September 2013, when at the age of 21 her car skidded off the A34 near Chieveley dropping down a 30-foot embankment. Six months on, a visit to RAF Benson to meet some of the charity’s crew inspired her to become a paramedic, with her completing her training in July of 2020.

Spencer talked about his cycling incident in May 2019 which nearly cost him his life. The charity’s Acting Medical Director Stewart McMorran who attended the incident described him as ‘the sickest patient he had ever seen who had gone on to make a recovery’. Marking the year’s anniversary of his incident, Spencer completed a 100-mile fundraising bike ride in support of Thames Valley Air Ambulance.

Spencer Hillier speaking at the event said:

“Despite some of the riskier missions I undertook as a pilot for the RAF, the closest I came to losing it all was my cycling accident. The doctors and paramedics at Thames Valley Air Ambulance who fought to save my life by operating on me for two hours by the side of that road, are the reason why I am still here today.”

The event kick started a two-month campaign called ‘Patients at Heart’ where alongside a new published history of the charity, and stories from former patients and crew, the public is also being encouraged to fundraise for the charity by taking on a ‘21 Challenge’. They can take part by either riding 2.1km every day for 21 days, or dancing or playing an instrument to 21 different pieces of music, or any activity completed 21 times.

Thames Valley Air Ambulance Chief Executive Amanda McLean, speaking at the event stated:

“I want to give my thanks and deep appreciation to everyone who has contributed to the remarkable progress the charity has made over the last two decades. We are dedicating this anniversary to all the patients and their families that we have stood alongside. We hope that it will be just as much a celebration of their lives, milestones and achievements, as it is about us as an organisation.”

The charity has also launched a ‘Bake Off For Take Off’ photo competition where supporters can post a picture of a birthday cake that they have baked.  Alongside this, supporters can also donate for their birthday to the charity to help with fundraising. The launch of the charity’s 21st anniversary celebrations come on the eve of Air Ambulance Week (7th to 13th of September), which recognises the lifesaving work of Thames Valley Air Ambulance and the other 20 services in the UK. Approximately 70 patients a day will receive treatment via an air ambulance service, with on average two air ambulances being in the air at any one time, via one of the sector’s 40 operational helicopters.

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