‘We need you’: London Air Ambulance volunteer urges people to support charity’s Christmas appeal

London Air Ambulance volunteer Ann Tyrrell is calling on people to back the charity's Christmas appeal. Picture: London's...

London Air Ambulance volunteer Ann Tyrrell is calling on people to back the charity's Christmas appeal. Picture: London's Air Ambulance Charity - Credit: London's Air Ambulance Charity

A volunteer has made a heartfelt plea urging people to support London Air Ambulance this Christmas.

The charity, founded in 1989, has launched a fundraising appeal during the festive season after revealing that it predicts to lose £5 million over the next two to three years because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ann Tyrrell has volunteered for the charity for a year but has spent far longer closely observing its journey.

She worked at the London Hospital Medical College, now part of Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, in Whitechapel for more than 30 years and remembers seeing the helicopter land and take off.

She said: “We were in the old build of the Royal London (the Alexandra Wing), I was two floors down from where the helipad was.

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“As they launched the helicopter into action, in the first few months we listened to the pilot coming in and going out and learning how to land.

“It was absolutely amazing. For me, it was an absolute privilege because I watched London Air Ambulance grow. It has grown over all those years.”

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Ann, who completed the Inca Trail to fundraise for the charity in 2010, felt one of the transformations she had seen during its history was the medical equipment that teams carry and the surgical procedures they can now perform.

As well as the airborne service, there is a physician response unit (PRU) which sees expert medics respond to 999 calls in rapid response cars.

“You’ve got this PRU, you have that amazing response team to be able to go out again to help people,” Ann said.

“I’ve never seen such a dedicated staff to be honest with you – carrying equipment they didn’t used to be able to carry but now they can.

“That equipment puts them in the frontline to be able to help someone, to relieve pain, to help with a procedure at the site rather than that person being in a critical condition and possibly not surviving by the time they get into a trauma unit.”

Ann retired from her role as clinical operations manager at the medical school last year and she said it was her passion to become a volunteer for the charity, which is close to her heart.

She’ll “do anything” for the cause, from raising awareness to bucket collecting, stewarding at events and research.

As a result, she has seen first-hand the impact of the pandemic on fundraising.

“I think the pandemic has been quite significant on the charity and on that basis I feel very, very sad,” she said.

“I was going to be doing several events, going out either drawing up awareness, setting up organisations, all sorts of areas that I started to make links with. All of a sudden, it was all stopped.

“If the Covid pandemic loses the charity millions of pounds, then they’re not going to be able to fly as many times to help people.

“If it is not supported, then they won’t be able to actually fly the helicopter – it might be even more selective which is sad.”

The keen photographer said the helicopter sometimes lands on a large patch of grass outside her home in Hornchurch.

“I have the most amazing pictures. Every now and then, I hear a noise and I think that’s the helicopter coming into land.

“So there I am outside with my camera. To see them land and move so quickly is good.”

Her message to people is to ask them to do anything you can to support the charity.

“We need you. No-one knows when something will happen that you may need that team. If you think that team’s aim is to be airborne within four minutes, to be at the scene within 11 minutes. The equipment they carry with them is very special. Many lives have been saved.

“This is a charity that I think is so vital for what’s going on.”

To support the fundraising appeal, go to londonsairambulance.org.uk/donate

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