Tributes and lasting gratitude as Wales Air Ambulance marks its 20th anniversary
Watch the video report by ITV Wales reporter Charanpreet Khaira
Tributes and gratitude have been paid to the Wales Air Ambulance Service as it marks its 20th anniversary of life-saving work.
Since its inception in 2001, the charity's helicopters have been involved in almost 38,000 missions across Wales to rescue or aid people in desperate need of help.
The charity, which is dependent on donations, needs to raise £8 million a year to keep its fleet of helicopters airborne.
In a statement on its website, the Wales Air Ambulance Service paid tribute to the people and goodwill that had enabled it to work for so long.
It said: "In 2021, Wales Air Ambulance marks its 20th anniversary.
"We have reached this milestone thanks to you, the people of Wales.
"To our supporters and volunteers – past and present. You’ve always answered our calls to donate funds and share your time.
"Thanks to you, we have one of the largest and most medically advanced air ambulance operations in Europe, running 24/7. Thank you.
"To our staff, Trustees, medics, pilots and allocators – past and present. Your passion and determination is the strong foundation upon which Wales Air Ambulance has been built. Thank you."
Mandy Draper is just one of thousands whose lives have been personally touched by the Wales Air Ambulance Service.
She had been out cycling when she was involved in a potentially life-threatening collision with a car.
"I was basically crushed, my whole torso was just crushed from the injuries," Mandy said.
"My leg was bleeding and that was crushed as well. The air ambulance came, airlifted me to Morriston [hospital] and luckily, because of their quick actions, they were able to save my leg that night.
"I could have lost my leg and, worse, lost my life."
Mandy was told by clinicians at the time that she may never walk again.
However, in the years since that incident, Mandy has run several marathons to raise money for the Wales Air Ambulance Service.
"They told me in the hospital that I may not walk again, I certainly won't be running marathons again," she explained.
"I thought 'well I will run a marathon again and I'll do it in aid of air ambulance who saved my life.' They're heroes."
Mark James, a Trustee with the charity, said it was irrefutable that many people alive today owed their lives to the actions of the Wales Air Ambulance Service.
He said: "Undoubtedly there are people alive today that perhaps wouldn't have been had the aircraft not been in existence, had the charity not been in existence.
"Cardiac arrests, people having strokes, maybe in the middle of nowhere, where getting medical care to them quickly is so important.
"I think everybody knows somebody or maybe is related to somebody that's been flown by us."