The arrival of Charlie Bear - Great Western Air Ambulance Charity
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December 2, 2022
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December 13, 2022

The arrival of Charlie Bear

GWAAC’s inbox is full of emails from worried supporters asking us about Charlie Bear’s apparent absence for the past six months. I felt like it was time to address people’s concerns: no, Charlie has not left us for a different air ambulance charity. I am sure many of you know who Charlie is, and why their absence has been felt by our supporters. For those who do not know Charlie, it is about time you are told. Charlie is the first bear in the world to qualify as a critical care medic. Charlie is fully trained in every aspect of the charity’s work, they regularly assist in patient care, help to lead training programmes, and attend almost every community fundraising event. Charlie is a GWAAC hero. While it may seem like Charlie Bear has been out of public life, in fact they have been working toward one of GWAAC’s strategic objectives–to simultaneously “Impact Nationally” and “Influence Globally”. The importance of this objective is explained by Charlie through the phrase “sharing is caring”, and this is exactly what they have spent the summer of ’22 doing.

It all began on the 7 June, Charlie and two GWAAC specialist paramedics, Pete Reeve, and Matt Robinson, arrived in Norway to participate in the training of fifteen North Sea Oil Rig nurses and Winchmen paramedics. Over the two-days, Charlie, Pete, and Matt, led a training programme, informed by their work within the Hazardous Areas Response Team (HART), so that their colleagues in Norway could further enhance their critical care response. This training partnership between GWAAC and the University of Stavanger has been going on for years and will continue into 2023 and beyond!

The critical care bear’s international activities continued, and on 26 June, Charlie, and six co-workers, journeyed to Ukraine­­ – it took 25 hours! The war context meant a high-level of risk for the volunteers, therefore, to ensure safety, they were accompanied by a security team. With the help of translators, the team (Charlie Bear, James Tooley, Ed Valentine, Andrew Heavyside, Pete Reeve, Callum Sutton, and Matt Robinson) taught around sixty civilians lifesaving care, none of which had a background in medicine. The training focused on tactical medicine, which included CPR, the use of tourniquets to stop bleeding, and triaging, i.e., the prioritisation of patient care based on need. In addition, GWAAC’s team of volunteers left behind vital medical supplies, and donated lifesaving equipment to key hospitals. Like GWAAC’s community outreach work in the West of England, such as the Great Western Heartstarters programme, and their Public Access Defibrillator Campaign, the impact of Charlie’s trip to Ukraine goes beyond the initial training. Now that GWAAC’s knowledge has been shared, the trainees can pass on their new medical skills, so that more ordinary people in Ukraine are equipped to save lives in extraordinary circumstances.

Committed to their life saving mission, Charlie did not rest upon their return to the UK. On the 17 August, Charlie Bear and GWAAC took part in a collaborative training day with the Avon Fire & Rescue Service (AF&RS), SWASfT Hazardous Area Response Team (HART), as well as paramedic lecturers and students from the University of West England. These like-minded people came together to swap rescue techniques and practices. The exercises both strengthened the participants’ provision of life saving care and bolstered the feeling of community and camaraderie between those involved.

Travelling from Bristol to Norway, Norway to Ukraine, and back again would seem like enough adventure for most bears, but not for Charlie. The brave bear still had one more important task to complete in their mission to spread critical care skills: GWAAC’s Symposium. On the 16 September, Bristol’s Aerospace Museum hosted the GWAAC crew, guest speakers, and interested attendees for the return of the Pre-Hospital Emergency Medical (PHEM) conference. The symposium presented a variety of interesting talks and demonstrations related to innovative critical care techniques and practices. One speech in particular caught Charlie’s attention, a talk by GWAAC’s Pete on the importance of having a wellbeing strategy in the workplace. Upon hearing this, Charlie Bear realised that they needed to check-in on themselves and take a timeout to recover from their intense mission.

Charlie Bear’s biggest strength is their empathy; however, they have learned that looking after oneself, is integral to caring for other people. After a rest–and a new haircut–Charlie is ready to return to their favourite role as a critical care bear at GWAAC. You can help Charlie spread more love, joy, and care by purchasing your very own Charlie Bear from GWAAC’s webshop.

p.s. Charlie Bear makes a wonderful Christmas gift and fits perfectly in stockings!!

Royal Mail's last posting date for second class deliveries is Monday 12 December. We will continue to dispatch orders after this date, but cannot guarantee delivery before Christmas if you order after 12 December. 

The current situation means we are aware of slight delays in the arrival of deliveries, but we confirm all orders placed to date have been dispatched.