Life saving work of NI Air Ambulance takes centre stage

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The life saving work of the Air Ambulance Northern Ireland will take centre stage at this week’s Balmoral Show.

The service, which was launched nine months ago, has already taken part in 320 missions across all six counties saving the lives of those injured in serious accidents. It costs £40,00 per week to keep this life saving service in the skies.

Since its launch the AANI has been embraced by the rural farming community, with the Ulster Farmers’ Union nominating it as its charity of choice during its important centenary year.

The charity will have a stand in the Eikon centre over the course of the next four days and show goers are encouraged to go along and sign up as a volunteer or become a member of the AANI Club - for just £8 per month you can help support this vital service and receive discounts from a range of stores.

Area fundraising manager for Down/Armagh Colleen Mulligan first became involved with the charity after a young neighbour, Conor McMullan was air lifted following an accident on the farm on 22 July last year. The air ambulance took Conor from his home near Castlewellan to hospital in just eight minutes and he talks now about how the team saved his life.

Colleen said is very aware of the vital service the Air Ambulance provides especially for people living in rural areas and the length of time it would take to drive by road to their local hospital.

“For me I have young children and a family, so I know how important it is. It is a very positive charity which provides a vital service and people have been fighting for it for so long,” added Colleen who has been in her role for four months and spends many evenings and weekends travelling around promoting the charity and raising awareness of it throughout the area.

“Because it is such a new charity we are working really hard to make sure it is integrated into our community and becomes part of the fabric of our community, so we have the challenge to educate people, promote it throughout schools, work places and communities and to all backgrounds,” she said.

Colleen also attends many cheque presentations, is involved in recruiting volunteers and goes along to many events, so it really is a busy and varied role.

“Because it is such a new charity, you have to put in a lot of work during the first year to raise awareness and to make sure that it continues into the future. It is a small team, but everyone really works hard for the benefit of the charity,” she said.

So far local people have taken the charity to heart, with a fantastic response right across the community.

Added Colleen: “The community response has been overwhelming. When I go to schools a lot of the children put up their hands and say that they have seen the Air Ambulance, but at one school in Castlewellan a pupil put up their hand and said the Air Ambulance had saved their cousin’s life, and that child was in P1. So its great that people of all ages are realising that this is an emergency service.”

Colleen said they have had a brilliant response from many clubs and societies right across all sections of the community, including Orange Lodges and GAA clubs.

In particular the charity has received huge response and support from the farming community, with the Air Ambulance named as the UFU charity of the year during its centenary celebrations and it is also receiving huge support from the Young Farmers Clubs of Ulster.

“I suppose the farming community recognise it as such a good resource because they are in more isolated areas and, of course, farming can be such a dangerous profession as well,” added Colleen.

Those involved in the charity are keen to encourage local people to sign up to become members of Club AANI. For a small donation of just £2 per week members receive a club pack containing information and merchandise plus they can avail of generous discounts in leading stores and online - a great way to support the charity and still get something more back too.

At the show the Ulster Farmers’ Union will be providing free refreshments and visitors to their stand will be able to give a donation to the work of the Air Ambulance. The Beef Shorthorn Cattle Society will be raffling off a cow, the Suffolk Sheep Society is raffling a trailer while the Simmental Club is raffling a pedigree Simmental cow. There will also be events in support of Air Ambulance at the Spar stand.

You can visit the Air Ambulance stand in the Eikon Centre at DK70 and meet the Air Ambulance mascot.

Rosamund Monteith, from Donaghcloney, is a volunteer with the Air Ambulance. A retired nurse, she has been a volunteer with numerous groups for around 20 years, but became involved with AANI last August.

“If there are volunteering opportunities in your area that you wish to attend, or even if you want to go further afield, you go with your volunteer t-shirt meet or greet people, collect or promote the Air Ambulance,” Rosamund explained,

“We have had a fantastic response to the charity so far. People in Northern Ireland are so generous and everyone has always known that, but it just emphasises that when you are collecting for something.

“What attracted me is that the charity is for Northern Ireland, for our community, for our people. Sometimes while there are very worthwhile charities the money goes into a big pot to be distributed, but with the Air Ambulance you know that any money you give will be used in Northern Ireland and for our people.”

Rosamund will be at Balmoral on Thursday and hopes that many people will visit the stand and sign up to Club AANI. She says it is a great scheme for people who don’t want to stand and collect money. You can give a small amount of money each month and still know you are supporting a service which is so vital.

“As a retired nurse, another thing that really encouraged me about the charity was the importance of that hour, or less than an hour, when there is a traumatic injury and how it is bringing help and especially medical help. It really does make such a difference - literally between life and death,” she added.

ABOUT AIR AMBULANCE NORTHERN IRELAND

Air Ambulance Northern Ireland (AANI) is a local charity that provides the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) for Northern Ireland, together with their partners at the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS). The service brings urgent medical assistance to anywhere in the province, operating seven days a week for 12 hours per day. It can get to anywhere in Northern Ireland in approximately twenty-five minutes.

This Doctor/Paramedic led service benefits those whose lives are at serious risk following significant injury or trauma. Effectively the service brings emergency hospital care direct to the casualty.

Before the start of AANI operations in July 2017, Northern Ireland was the only part of the UK without an emergency helicopter service, and its launch marked the culmination of a twelve-year campaign backed by the public and driven by key individuals throughout that period.

The primary operations base is at Maze Long Kesh with a backup aircraft based at St Angelo Airport in Enniskillen.

The speed of the service is improving outcomes and saving lives. The service is tasked to an incident on average every day.

AANI’s very first mission was to provide emergency care for eleven-year-old Conor from County Down. Conor was injured in a farm vehicle accident and after being treated on site was flown to Belfast in a fraction of the time it would have taken by road.

Air Ambulance NI needs to raise £2million each year to maintain this service so public donations are crucial.

If you would like to donate you can do so online at www.airambulanceni.org or if you would like to organise an event or could spare some time volunteering, please contact Air Ambulance NI by email at info@airambulanceni.org or call 028 9262 2677.