A leisurely Easter weekend walk in Highland Perthshire turned into a full scale emergency, reports Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance (SCAA), which prompted the service’s landmark 1,000th tasking. The charity-funded helicopter was scrambled from its base at Perth Airport after the emergency services received a call that a hillwalker was experiencing severe chest pains.
The walk in the hills for Allan Thornhill and wife Lesley became a race against time when the 57-year-old taxi driver doubled up in agony. Gavin Law, a lawyer in the British Army, was the first member of the public on the scene as the mountainside drama unfolded. He recalled: “I heard a woman shouting for help further up the slope and found her husband doubled over on the ground looking very unwell. He was having difficulty breathing and was complaining of severe pains in his chest and I realised it was pretty serious. I immediately dialled 999. They kept me talking and said help was on its way.”
Another spasm left Allan fearing for his life as the charity’s distinctive helicopter made its way to the slopes, landing about 300 m (1,000 ft) downhill of the patient.
“I felt real fear and panic,” said Allan. “I knew we were miles from anywhere and I was getting worse – the pain was intense across my chest and jaw. I was drifting in and out, but when I heard the helicopter and saw it land further down the hill, I remember a great wave of relief, and when the paramedics were at my side I started to feel new hope.”
Other hillwalkers volunteered their services and six helped the two SCAA paramedics carry the stretcher down the steep rough ground back to the helicopter. Helimed 76 then flew Allan to Ninewells Hospital in Dundee, a 20-minute flight that would have taken over an hour and a half by road.
“The helicopter air ambulance proved vital on the day,” said Gavin Law. “The car park was some distance away and the land ambulance crew faced quite a climb. They would also have had a long journey back over rough ground with the patient to reach the ambulance even before they started the long drive to hospital.”
SCAA aircrew paramedics John Salmond and Julia Barnes praised the help of the public. “Their series of actions helped bring air support quickly and effectively to the scene,” said Julia, “and their kindness and support on the ground meant we were able to turn around this emergency situation really quickly.” John added: “Throughout our 1,000 callouts, the public have always been there for us.”
Calling the charity crew ‘heroes’, Allan said: “I was able to see my grandchildren enjoy their Easter eggs thanks to this amazing team – it could so easily have been a totally different outcome without them.”
Commenting on the milestone mission, SCAA chief executive David Craig described it as ‘a remarkable achievement’ for the charity, adding: “Since launching just less than three years ago we have helped to improve and save the lives of hundreds of people in critical need of emergency care. We are hugely indebted to the people, businesses and communities of Scotland who have supported us since day one and continue to keep us flying.”