7 Aug 2023
Throughout Friday 4 August, BBC London hosted a live news broadcast from London’s Air Ambulance Charity’s helipad, atop The Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel.
The day began with BBC London presenter Asad Ahmed flying into the helipad at 08:00. Landing on top of Europe’s highest helipad, 284ft in the sky, he proceeded to do a live piece to camera with the London skyline set behind him.
The lunch bulletin then included an interview with Dr Cosmo Scurr – one of London’s Air Ambulance’s specialised doctors – and the afternoon saw a FacebookLive session hosted by BBC Presenter Paul Murphy-Kasp, with Pilot Pete Driver and Dr Kat Hunter.
During the session Pilot Pete Driver told Paul: “This is the best job in the world, there’s no doubt about it. I get to fly with some amazing people and make a real difference on outcomes for people who have suffered an incident.”
Dr Kat Hunter said: “I really enjoy the mix of adrenaline, meeting lots of different people, working with fantastic people and being there when people really need you. It’s great going home at the end of the day feeling like you really have made a difference for somebody.
“It’s important people understand we are a charity. We are dependent on the generosity of Londoners, of the people in this fantastic city – they keep us in the sky, they keep us going.”
You can watch the full FacebookLive session here, which includes a look into the inside of the helicopter and the kit we carry on every job.
The evening news showcased a live interview with Paramedic Chris Demaine, Dr John Chatterjee, one of our consultants, and Director of Fundraising and Marketing, Jayne Clarke. Our charity is currently in the midst of its largest-ever fundraising appeal: we need to raise an additional £15 million to replace our two helicopters before they reach the end of their lifespan in autumn 2024.
Dr John Chatterjee said: “My job is to do this job to the best of my ability. I want to make a difference – that’s why I became a doctor. It is a privilege to do this job and it is a privilege to be there in those moments of people’s lives.
“Sometimes you take things home with you. When I am speaking to a family member and telling them some of the most shattering news in their lives, you have to give part of yourself to that, because you have to be in the moment with them there, and that’s tough.”
Also featured within the news was a piece on our previous patient James. In February 2021, 17-year-old James was testing out his mother’s push bike when masked men attacked him for no reason, knocked him off the bike and stabbed him multiple times. Sustaining numerous wounds to his chest, torso, arms and legs, the attack penetrated James’ liver, aorta and diaphragm, as well as puncturing his lung. James was in a critical condition and did not have time to get to hospital.
We were dispatched immediately and found James receiving CPR: his catastrophic bleeding had led to a traumatic cardiac arrest. His heart had stopped and he was lifeless. On arrival our advanced trauma team performed a resuscitative thoracotomy (open chest surgery) in order to compress his aorta, the main artery from the heart. The team concurrently secured central venous access which allowed them to give James a blood transfusion – these procedures are things only our team can do on scene in London. They then performed internal heart massage and luckily managed to get James’ heart beating again.
The news broadcast also aired a practical demonstration with Dr Cosmo, Dr Amar Mashru and Lead Paramedic Lynsey Grant, and footage from jobs we had been dispatched to that week. In the demonstration the team ran a drill, caring for a mannequin representing a 50 year old male motorcyclist who had driven into a railing and required an arm amputation.
Dr Cosmo said: “This kind of training is really important. We do it on a normal shift, in between the real jobs we go out on. It’s a really important time – we use the same kit and equipment we have on the helicopters and in the cars and by doing this training we get really familiar with all the little steps we do so that when we come to treat a real patient, we’re good at it, we’re familiar with it and we have enough brain space to do the job well.”
It was a pleasure hosting the BBC team on the helipad and we’re so thankful for the opportunity. We are a charity with 96 per cent of our funding coming from public donations. But not everyone is aware of our charitable status. As Dr Kat said: “We need you. We need you to support us.”