Reverend Ross Receives Charity Volunteer of the Year Nomination
Reverend Ross’ connection to Thames Valley Air Ambulance begins back in 2016 when, on a lovely spring day in April, Ross took his brand-new three-wheeled motorbike out on its first run. Less than 15 minutes later, Ross’s life hung in the balance after he was involved in a catastrophic accident. Along with colleagues from other Emergency Services, Thames Valley Air Ambulance attended the accident and Ross was airlifted in critical condition to the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford.
At hospital Ross underwent seven hours of surgery in the hope of saving his leg, but he began to suffer multi organ failure. His right leg was amputated above the knee the next day.
Ross was fitted with a prosthetic leg and he began his long physical and psychological recovery. He gradually returned to work as the Senior Pastor of Shenley Christian Fellowship in Milton Keynes and also became a volunteer promotional speaker for our charity. Ross brought the gift of authenticity and really captured people’s attention. No organisation could ask for a better ambassador.
But Ross wanted to do more. In 2019 he approached us with a proposal and subsequently on the 8th of April, three years to the day since his life-changing accident, he became our chaplain.
Put simply, chaplaincy is about being present and available. It is a remarkable privilege to be able to talk to the team and to share their joys and struggles – to be available just to listen to them when they need it.
Ross Dilnot, Chaplain
The charity had never had a chaplain before, and Ross was determined to blow away any preconceived ideas people may have had. As Ross says: “Put simply, chaplaincy is about being present and available. It is a remarkable privilege to be able to talk to the team and to share their joys and struggles – to be available just to listen to them when they need it, knowing that everything said is confidential. I want the team to feel relaxed and to be able to be themselves with me and not put on an act because the ‘vicar’ is around!”
Ross has very much achieved that aim. Clinical Shift Manager Kevin Letchford who was the Critical Care Paramedic that attended Ross after his accident said: “There were a few of us in the crew room one day and we were talking about a call that had been particularly challenging and resulted in similar injuries that Ross had suffered. Suddenly everyone became acutely aware that Ross was sat there with us and went quiet, and he just grinned and asked for another biscuit to dunk in his tea – that’s when I knew he was part of the team.”
Ross is now not only caring for those that cared for him but also uses all the skills he has in his pastoral role to care for our patients too.
Adam Crosby, Head of Aftercare
Ross is involved in the strategic review of the charity, is part of the interview panel for any patient facing roles, engages in multi faith collaboration in the region, represents us at memorial services and is also a patient research ambassador. Additionally, he provides a crucial role in the Aftercare team at Thames Valley Air Ambulance. Adam Crosby, Head of Aftercare, said: “Not only does Ross focus on ensuring the wellbeing of our staff but also on being available to patients and their loved ones who may be having a crisis of faith because of their experiences. The ability for them to have that kind of conversation with someone who won’t judge them for their guilt, anger or frustration has been invaluable. Ross is now not only caring for those that cared for him but also uses all the skills he has in his pastoral role to care for our patients too.”
But why are we nominating Ross now rather than in previous years? The answer is Covid-19. The pandemic forced us all to work differently, and Ross had to adapt to still be ‘present’ when all the restrictions meant he couldn’t be. Arguably, our teams needed Ross around more than ever. So, Ross adapted quickly and continued to be available via Teams, Zoom and good old fashioned phone calls. Our clinicians faced unprecedented changes to their working environment and how they delivered care, but Ross knew that non-clinical staff also faced additional challenges and he ensured he was accessible to everyone during a confusing and testing time.
What is truly remarkable about Ross is that he did all of this whilst having significant health issues of his own to deal with. Ross has polycystic kidney disease and is on daily home dialysis whilst he waits for a transplant. Because of this, Ross was required to ‘shield’ for significant periods of time during lockdown and yet still gave his all to his role as chaplain and made sure everyone knew he was still there for them.
Ross wears the Thames Valley Air Ambulance uniform with pride and it’s so compelling to see someone get so much out of volunteering. But Ross is doing far more than just ‘giving something back’. From an organisational point of view, he’s influenced how we operate and deliver care and that’s a remarkable achievement for a volunteer. This year, more than any other, we realised how much we need him.
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