Great North Air Ambulance marks blood milestone with accident survivors from North East and Cumbria

11/06/22. Survivors whose lives were saved by the Great North Ambulance meet members of the crew on the roof of the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle. ITV News.
Survivors meet members of the air ambulance crew. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees & Border

The Great North Air Ambulance has been celebrating a milestone event this weekend.

It marks the 500th person to be given a blood transfusion by the service, a pioneering development that has already saved many lives.

The GNAAS began carrying blood and plasma on board their aircraft and response cars in 2015.  Before then the treatment could only ever be administered in a hospital setting. 

Survivors - as well as the families of those who lost their lives - from both the North East and Cumbria met at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, where they met members of the team who support this service.

The idea was inspired by Dr Rachel Hawes who witnessed the military's treatment of injured personnel while she was serving in Afghanistan.

"I had the idea that potentially this is something that we would adapt and implement locally into the NHS in the North East and Cumbria," she said.

Dr Rachel Hawes, who works for the Great North Air Ambulance and the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Credit: ITV Tyne Tees and Border

"All of these patients have life threatening injuries that are complex and severe and there are multiple things that affect the outcomes of those patients.

"But if you can't get that patient alive to hospital in the first point then they don't stand a chance, so this really can be the difference between life and death."

Rob Hope, from Cumbria, is one man who says he owes his life to Dr Hawes innovation and the dedication of GNAAS staff.

Rob Hope, whose life was saved by the air ambulance after he was in motorcycle crash. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees & Border

"I was involved in a motorcycle collision. I've lost my left arm, my left hip was smashed.

"The time it took them to get from Cumbria over to here was about 25 minutes and the blood and the plasma on board was life-saving."

A special reception was held at Newcastle's RVI Hospital allowing patients who received blood and their families to personally meet the teams that gave them urgently needed treatment.  

Peter Nichols from South Shields is one man who says he owes his life to Dr Hawe's innovative work:

"Well, I was in a plane crash in Teesside, 25th of September last year. It was me, my wife and the pilot.

"We were crashed and I've got virtually no memories of it happening. But if it wasn't for the air ambulance I probably wouldn't be alive now."

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