Hamish's story - Great Western Air Ambulance Charity
SWASfT Pre-Hospital Emergency Anaesthesia Pilot
March 28, 2024
SWASfT Pre-Hospital Emergency Anaesthesia Pilot
March 28, 2024

It was 8 July 2019 and the first day of Wild Week at school. Eight-year-old Hamish was looking forward to a whole week of fun activities.

But after the first fun-packed day of non-school uniform and toasting marshmallows, Hamish broke his arm at his friend’s house in Pill (North Somerset) after school. It was such a bad injury that it required the specialist skills of Great Western Air Ambulance Charity’s (GWAAC) Critical Care Team.

Hamish said, “We were playing a game in the back garden where we climbed up a tree, lowered ourselves down on a swing, then jumped off.” When it was Hamish’s turn to jump off the swing, it tipped backward. Hamish fell off and landed on his arm. He said, “I took one look and decided it was broken.”

Hamish’s arm was badly out of shape with an open fracture; it was broken in not one, not two, but in three places! Later that evening, the hospital consultant told Mum, Eleanor, “As far as arm breaks go it is about as bad as it gets.”


What happened next for Hamish?

Hamish’s friend’s mum called 999 and Eleanor straight away. Eleanor said, “I didn’t realise how serious it was until I got to Hamish.” She arrived to find him in lots of pain and being treated by a Paramedic who had arrived on a motorbike while they waited for the ambulance.

Hamish remembers having painkillers “and a blue thing to rest my arm on to stop the blood.” Soon after, and approximately 20 minutes after the 999 call was made, GWAAC’s helicopter landed in the nearby park.

Critical Care Doctor, Matt, and Specialist Paramedics (SPCC), Vicki and Dee grabbed the kit bags and made their way to Hamish as fast as they could.


GWAAC crew swoop in to help Hamish

Dr Matt inserted a thin tube into Hamish to administer drugs; he gave him some morphine to control the pain. SPCC, Dee, said, “We then placed his arm in a sling, reassuring him the whole time. The ambulance arrived and we decided Hamish could go to Bristol Children’s Hospital by ambulance without a critical care escort as he didn't require any stronger pain relief or further critical care interventions.”

Hamish’s version of events was, “Dr Matt gave me strong painkillers and decided not to take me to hospital in the helicopter which was disappointing. One of my friends saw it in the park and everyone at school knew it was there and that it was me they were looking after.

Mum, Eleanor said, ”The crew were very reassuring. Hamish’s arm was really quite bent with the bone sticking out. The crew were telling him jokes to help him relax. I was quite anxious too, about Hamish and also about the thought of going in a helicopter – I hate helicopters and was quite relieved when I knew we didn’t have to go in one. It caused a lot of excitement in the village though and even made it onto the Daily Pill Facebook page.”


At the hospital

Hamish was in hospital for a few days, which wasn’t so bad. He had a room to himself and a nice comfy bed while his mum slept on a chair: “I Got to watch Star Wars and play FIFA one-handed. A doctor taught me how to play FIFA, I’d never played it before. And I had three bowls of cocoa pops for breakfast.” Eleanor said, “He liked that because he’s only allowed one bowl at weekends.”

Hamish had an operation to insert rods into his arm. The family learned that it would take eight weeks to heal. He said, “It was annoying coming home because I wasn’t allowed to do anything. I remember my friends all running around outside in the nice weather and I had to sit at home.”


A few bumps in the road to recovery

During his first game of football after breaking his arm, Hamish broke it again with the rods still in! Hamish said, “An off-duty paramedic was there and helped me out. Then I broke the other arm (my left one) the year after. So that’s two breaks in my right and one in my left.” With some eye-rolling, Eleanor said, “We’ve had two and a half years of operations.”

Eleanor said Hamish can do most things now but he can’t twist it properly. He finds bowling a little tricky in cricket and has developed his own technique to make sure he can bowl the ball to hit the same place on the bat each time. Hamish’s words of advice are, “Don’t break a bone, it’s not nice!”


“We will keep supporting GWAAC”

Mum, Eleanor, and Dad, Ben, contacted GWAAC not long after Hamish’s incident. They said, “On behalf of Hamish and our whole family, a huge thank-you to everyone involved for your help - we would love to know more about your involvement that day! The landing caused quite a stir locally. Hamish has become quite a local celebrity since.”

Hamish and his family have visited GWAAC’s airbase a couple of times since his incident (in August 2019 and March 2023) and his little sister, Matilda, said she didn’t want to leave.

Eleanor said, “Every time we’ve had any interaction with the crew they’ve been really friendly. We will keep supporting GWAAC.” Matilda has been saving all her pennies to give to GWAAC.

Eleanor also said, “For someone who doesn’t like helicopters I’ve experienced them a lot over recent years. There seems to be a connection with GWAAC. When Hamish was six months old, GWAAC’s helicopter landed in the park for another incident. The pilot let Hamish sit inside for a photo. Hamish has this photo on his wall along with a newer one of himself in the helicopter with his broken arm.”

And while we would like to help Hamish with his growing GWAAC photo collection, we hope it doesn’t involve any more broken arms!


So far in 2024, more than 20% of our patients have been babies, children or teenagers. Find out more about our lifesaving work with children.

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