Surprise treasure hunt reunites retiring air ambulance doctor with the patients she saved

  • Watch a video report by Raveena Ghattaura

A retiring air ambulance doctor was brought face-to-face with the young patients whose lives she saved as part of a surprise reunion treasure hunt to celebrate her remarkable career.

When Dr Pam Chrispin decided to hang up her stethoscope, her friends at the East Anglia Air Ambulance shunned the traditional carriage clock and bunch of flowers - instead laying a trail of special memories across the region for their colleague.

Dr Chrispin was set a series of clues - including one set by ITV Anglia's David Whiteley - with each one taking her to a reunion with former workmates and the patients whose lives she has changed.

Among them were Emma and Phil Cavanagh from Royston in Hertfordshire, for whom Dr Chrispin was undoubtedly a life-saver, having treated their daughter Willow as she was being born.

Mr Cavanagh said: "Emma had a placental abruption when she was at home. She needed serious medical attention and the air ambulance was called and that’s when Pam came in and save Emma's life and our baby's life."

Dr Chrispin is reunited with Emma Cavanagh Credit: ITV News Anglia

Mrs Cavanagh added: "She’s our absolute hero. If it wasn’t for her we wouldn’t be here today. I wouldn’t have a precious family. She means the absolute world to us, so we feel so honoured that we’ve been asked to be here today for her retirement.

"I feel so proud that we can bring Willow here and she can see her and I know that Pam feels equally. Willow means the absolute world to her it’s just so lovely to be part of this."And despite their ordeal taking place three years ago, Mr Cavanagh said Dr Chrispin was never far from their thoughts.

"We talk about her an awful lot... every day she comes up in conversation. So to be able to thank her and see her here and be here today is just amazing," he said.

Dr Pam with her retirement cake Credit: ITV news Anglia

The call to the Cavanaghs home has stayed with Dr Chrispin too.

"I just took one look at mum and I knew that this was a really serious, seconds ticking by type of emergency. Although that’s what we do, it’s very rare that you go to a job and you know that literally every second counts. All I can remember is that I did a lot of shouting at people."We got the wheels turning on the ambulance as soon as possible and went into the Rosie [maternity hospital]. It was all very touch and go and very scary."

Dr Chrispin's own grandson was born just a few days later, making the job an especially poignant one - and she said it was "thrilling" to see Willow once more.

Dr Chrispin is reunited with nine-year-old Tilly Credit: ITV News Anglia

There was also an emotional meeting with nine-year-old Tilly - another youngster whose life was saved by Dr Chrispin, after she suffered a major asthma attackfour years ago.

Her mum Hayley said: "She was struggling to breathe and went blue so we had to call 999. A paramedic car came out but had to request back up and Pam and another paramedic came.

"They managed to stabilise her ... they managed to do everything they needed to do to keep her with us. She’d had a severe asthma attack and without their intervention she wouldn’t be here with us."

Tilly said she had been delighted to see Dr Chrispin again.

"It’s been really exciting because I’ve missed seeing her as it’s been so long since I’ve seen her so it’s been really exciting for me," she said.

"It’s quite sad but I’m hoping I can see her again sometime. I have a big thank you for her and everyone for helping me when I was a lot younger."

The day also included a lunch date at Norfolk's Dunston Hall hotel, a guard of honour from police and a catch-up with one of her former crew mates in the ambulance service.

Dr Chrispin had to piece together the clues in the style of one her favourite BBC radio shows, Treasure Quest Credit: ITV Anglia

Carl Smith, an advanced paramedic with the East of England Ambulance Service, described Dr Chrispin as "irreplaceable".

"It’s like working with your mum - she’s great fun to work with, tells you off if you’re naughty. [She's] a straight talker and we’ve had some great shifts together.

"She’s going to be a big loss to the air ambulance, she just seems to have been there for the whole time I’ve been there and is the go-to person. She is an inspirational leader and we’re going to miss her madly."

  • Anglia Archive: Watch a special report by Kate Prout featuring Dr Chrispin at work to mark the 10th anniversary of the East Anglian Air Ambulance service.

Those sentiments were echoed by Dr Chrispin's former colleague at the West Suffolk Hospital and the air ambulance, Lisa Boyle.

"She is just so intelligent, loving, so compassionate to her patients and families and just always there for everybody. She is just such a special person always has been and always will be."

Parting gift: Dr Chrispin is swapping riding off into retirement on a bicycle made for two. Credit: ITV News Anglia

It was fitting that for a woman who has supplied life-long memories to so many, her last day would be unforgettable too.

"It was a complete surprise from start to finish," she said.

"It’s been really overwhelming and quite emotional, I’ve seen lots of old friends old colleagues... I’ve seen patients and their families so it’s been really quite overwhelming. I’ve been so touched I really can’t begin to say how grateful I am."