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Bringing the hospital in a backpack

If you’ve seen our crew in action on Emergency Helicopter Medics, you’ll know they often have to walk some distance from the landing site to reach the patient. It’s essential that everything they need is portable – and that’s where our highly organised kit bags come in.

Carried like a backpack, the kit bags contain the specialist drugs and equipment necessary for a wide range of situations. Our primary response bag is blue and contains the most frequently used drugs and items – cannulation equipment, an oxygen bottle, dressings, a blood oxygen monitor, a breathing assistance device and much more. One small but vital pouch contains surgical equipment for the procedures our crew carry out at the scene. There is even a cleverly designed blanket that heats up when shaken to ensure the patient does not get cold.

The seriousness of the incidents we attend becomes clear when you consider that parts of our kit originated in war zones.

‘We have some really strong bandages in here that have actually been developed by the military’ says Critical Care Paramedic Emma Gray. ‘These were devised and utilised in places like Afghanistan and Iraq and worked very well out there with the casualties, so they’re the ones that we now use.’

Another item adopted from military medicine is Celox haemostatic gauze, used for large open wounds. ‘We can use this to put inside the wound and the properties in it help to clot the blood and stop the bleeding,’ says Emma.

Our secondary response bag is red and among its contents are a ventilator, a portable ultrasound machine and an emergency airway bag, which enables the crew to intubate the patient or perform a surgical airway. Each bag weighs around 15kg which can soon start to feel heavy, so it’s important for the crew to be physically fit and strong.

All our specialist equipment and drugs are funded by generous donations from our community – when you give to Thames Valley Air Ambulance, you might just be providing an item that will save someone’s life. The kit bags are replenished for every shift so that – just like our amazing crew – they are always ready for the next patient who needs them.

Find out more about our lifesaving equipment in our new series, Air Ambulance Unpacked. Critical Care Paramedic Emma will be taking you behind the scenes with a new video each week, starting with our paediatric bag below.

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