"I have my son thanks to GWAAC" - Rach and Ollie's story - Great Western Air Ambulance Charity
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“I have my son thanks to GWAAC” – Rach and Ollie’s story

Like many of us, Rach never expected to need the help of Great Western Air Ambulance Charity (GWAAC). But when her son Ollie had an accident on his bicycle, she learned that anyone can be the next patient. Here, she shares her story.

The day my son Ollie had his accident started much the same as any other. The children were at school, and I was running errands. Ollie was 16 then, heading towards his GCSEs – but like a lot of 16 year olds, he was more interested in spending time with his friends than studying for exams!

He and his friends were always off somewhere, they were an active and adventurous group – playing cricket, playing rugby, hopping on their skateboards. On that day, they went out on their bicycles. As he left the house, I told him “be careful”, told him “I love you” – all the usual things you say. Then I got on with my day.

A few hours later, everything changed. It’s the worst phone call a parent can receive.

What happened that day shows how much can change in a single moment. Ollie’s bicycle collided with the side of a van. He was badly injured – he was bleeding internally and had damaged his liver. Someone dialled 999 and, because of the severity of the incident, Great Western Air Ambulance Charity (GWAAC) were called. They were there by helicopter in less than twenty minutes.

I didn’t know any of that when I first received a call from a friend at the scene – all I knew was that my son had been in an accident. In that moment, the most important thing for me was that the ambulance didn’t take him away before I arrived. I needed to get to my child, to be with him, to do whatever I could to comfort him. I rushed to the scene.

Ollie was already in the back of an ambulance, and surrounding him were three people dressed in orange – the GWAAC crew.

They were so calm, so focused, communicating with each other almost invisibly as they attached all sorts of tubes and machines to my son.

They explained to me that they needed to give Ollie an emergency anaesthetic to keep him stable, and then they needed to get him to hospital as quickly as possible for surgery. Throughout the whole journey, they continued working on him, and it began to dawn on me just how serious the situation was.  

The weeks and months that followed in hospital were so hard. I lived day to day, moment to moment – Ollie was alive, but everything I was learning made me realise what a miracle that was.

GWAAC had been able to reach him quickly in the helicopter, saving precious minutes in a situation where every second counted. Ollie’s internal bleeding had been severe, he’d lost six pints of blood – he’d needed an emergency blood transfusion and they had given him every last drop of blood they had on board. I didn’t know then that emergency blood transfusions can only be performed by the air ambulance.

That blood transfusion saved Ollie’s life. Without it, he wouldn’t have survived long enough to reach the hospital.

Ollie’s 20 now. He still isn’t completely back to his old self, and he has plenty of scars to remind us of that day. But he’s still got his adventurous spirit, he still goes off with his friends, and he’s got a job. Most of all, he’s alive. And for that, I owe everything to GWAAC.

You see the air ambulance flying overhead, and you take it for granted because you assume you’ll never need it. But, as I learned, you might just need it one day – and when you do, you realise just how precious it is. It still amazes me that this lifesaving service relies entirely on donations from people like you and me. Since that day, I’ve done whatever I can to support the charity.

I don’t know how I’ll ever be able to thank GWAAC enough.

On the day of Ollie’s accident, the crew left me a little card. On it was written the names of the crew members who had been there – Tim, Pete and James. That little card has been in my wallet ever since. I can’t bear to part with it, because those three people are amongst the most important people in my life. I love them to bits. They saved my son that day, and that’s an amazing thing to do. You can do something amazing too, by supporting GWAAC. With your help, more lives like Ollie’s can be saved.

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