‘The air am­bu­lance was an ex­ten­sion of the love John and I had for each other... I’d al­ways have been an­gry with my­self if I hadn’t got it over the line for him’

Belfast Telegraph - - LIFE -

The part­ner of the late Dr John Hinds, the mo­tor­cy­cle medic they called the Fly­ing Doc­tor, has re­vealed how his anger over a waste of lives af­ter ma­jor trauma in­ci­dents drove him on in his re­lent­less cam­paign for the in­tro­duc­tion of an air am­bu­lance in North­ern Ire­land. And although his dream was re­alised, John didn’t live to see it, be­cause he died af­ter a crash at a race meet­ing — the sort of place where he’d helped countless rid­ers in the years be­fore his own per­sonal tragedy.

And now a pow­er­ful new BBC North­ern Ire­land doc­u­men­tary, which in­cludes graphic footage of air am­bu­lance crews re­spond­ing to road, farm and in­dus­trial ac­ci­dents, pays homage to the role that John played in get­ting the air am­bu­lance off the ground to de­liver cru­cial trauma care to peo­ple in need here in the sum­mer of 2017.

And his part­ner, Janet Ach­e­son, whom he met at Queen’s Uni­ver­sity` Belfast, where they were both med­i­cal stu­dents, de­liv­ers her own touch­ing trib­ute to — and talks of her pride in — the de­ter­mined cam­paigner in the hour-long doc­u­men­tary, Air Am­bu­lance and the Fly­ing Doc­tors.

The value of the ser­vice he cham­pi­oned is un­der­lined re­peat­edly in the pro­gramme by medics. One of them, Stu­art Steven­son, spells it out in the stark­est of terms, say­ing: “The im­por­tance of the air am­bu­lance is about get­ting clin­i­cal in­ter­ven­tions quickly to the pa­tient and stop that dy­ing process, be­cause a lot of the times when we have ar­rived with a pa­tient, they have al­ready en­tered into the process of dy­ing.”

Dur­ing the doc­u­men­tary, Janet al­lows the cam­eras into what she calls John’s “man-cave”, a study in their home, which used to be the ex­clu­sive pre­serve of her part­ner, whose rac­ing leathers still have pride of place along­side eight of his safety hel­mets, some em­bla­zoned with the word “Doc­tor”.

Janet also talks of her ad­mi­ra­tion for the vi­tal work of the He­li­copter Emer­gency Med­i­cal Ser­vice (HEMS), which took to the skies of North­ern Ire­land two years af­ter John’s ac­ci­dent, at the Sker­ries 100 road races near Dublin.

And in the doc­u­men­tary, the sto­ries of sur­vivors who say they owe their lives to the air am­bu­lance are tes­ti­monies to The late Dr John Hinds and his part­ner Janet Ach­e­son. Above, HEMS medics (from left) Dr Camp­bell Brown, Glenn O’Rourke and Stu­art Steven­son what John had fought for in his cru­sade. Janet says that, right from the start of his stud­ies, John wanted to help peo­ple and quickly in­sisted that his ideal en­vi­ron­ment would be in the cut­ting edge of in­ten­sive care as an anaes­thetist. She says John was also keen to find an­other out­let for his skills in road rac­ing, which he’d loved for years.

An­other mem­ber of the fly­ing doc­tor team, Dr Fred McSor­ley, says John was a will­ing and ea­ger re­cruit to the team of rapid re­spon­ders on mo­tor­bikes, who of­fered their ser­vices at race meet­ings to help in­jured rid­ers.

“For me, he was a won­der­ful com­bi­na­tion,” says Dr McSor­ley. “He was damned quick on a bike, he was a fab­u­lous pair of hands and a bril­liant brain. Even as a ju­nior anaes­thetist in train­ing, it was ob­vi­ous this guy was ex­cep­tional.”

In a TV in­ter­view from 2007, it was clear that John was warm­ing to his task on the roads, say­ing: “Hos­pi­tal medicine has be­come very full of pro­to­cols and guide­lines, but out here it’s a wee bit more seat-of-your-pants medicine and it’s very much re­ward­ing.

“You don’t have a ster­ile op­er­at­ing field and you are not in a re­sus­ci­ta­tion bay.

You’re very of­ten in a ditch some­where. So, it’s to­tally dif­fer­ent. But that’s where the ex­pe­ri­ence of the team you’re work­ing with comes in. Th­ese guys re­ally have seen it all.”

It wasn’t long be­fore the “stu­dent” brought a level of ex­per­tise to what the fly­ing doc­tors were do­ing, re­vers­ing the roles, in that he be­came the men­tor from whom the rest of the team could learn.

But John was also soon press­ing for holes in the med­i­cal sys­tem here to be filled. Dr McSor­ley says: “We had led the way in the 1970s. North­ern Ire­land was re­ally at the fore­front of med­i­cal in­no­va­tion, be­cause we were suf­fer­ing the dread­ful Trou­bles. But we had fallen way be­hind in the pro­vi­sion of trauma care.

“If you were in­volved in a road traf­fic ac­ci­dent in the Belfast area, you might get to hos­pi­tal pretty quick, but if you were stuck in a car in Pomeroy, or un­der­neath a trac­tor, th­ese peo­ple weren’t do­ing as well.”

Dr McSor­ley says John did a huge amount of work, along with other col­leagues, to high­light the need for a fully co-or­di­nated re­gional trau­matic net­work ser­vice. And cen­tral to his call was the set­ting up of an air am­bu­lance ser­vice.

Janet says she and John went to Aus­tralia to see the HEMS in Syd­ney.

“That proved to him what he wanted to do,” adds Janet, who thought her Doc­tor Fred

McSor­ley Vi­o­let McAfee at Sta­tion Road in Port­stew­art where she was al­most killed while watch­ing the North West 200 in 2015

part­ner was ad­vo­cat­ing a move Down Un­der. “But he said, ‘We will do this in North­ern Ire­land’.”

The cou­ple knew it would be a dif­fi­cult road, but John started to knock on doors. “That was typ­i­cal John. He was up for the chal­lenge,” says Janet.

As se­ri­ous dis­cus­sions be­gan about over­com­ing the ob­sta­cles fac­ing the ad­vo­cates of an air am­bu­lance, John Hinds be­came more and more vo­cal, telling the au­thor­i­ties the in­tro­duc­tion of the HEMS would not be as costly as the naysay­ers thought.

Janet Ach­e­son tells the pro­gramme-mak­ers: “He found it ex­tremely frus­trat­ing. All the time, peo­ple were dy­ing and that was re­ally what made him an­gry.”

She says he felt it would take a ma­jor in­ci­dent to fo­cus at­ten­tion on the HEMS de­bate.

And that came at the North West 200 in 2015, when spec­ta­tor Vi­o­let McAfee was mown down by a mo­tor­bike which had just been in­volved in a col­li­sion.

The Ir­ish Coast­guard he­li­copter had to be en­listed to take Vi­o­let to the Royal Vic­to­ria Hos­pi­tal in Belfast and John Hinds went on TV to talk up the ben­e­fits that a HEMS chop­per would bring here — and not just to mo­tor­bike rac­ers, or fans.

“It would be a real game-changer,” he said. “We know that other coun­tries who have im­ple­mented the sys­tem have re­duced trauma deaths up to 40%.”

Two months later, John Hinds trag­i­cally died from mul­ti­ple trau­matic in­juries in the in­ten­sive care unit of a Dublin hos­pi­tal af­ter an ac­ci­dent at the Sker­ries 100.

Janet took a call from Fred McSor­ley and in­stantly recog­nised the chill­ing im­port of his words: “Are you on your own?”

She knew the phrase was never fol­lowed by good news and she got to Dublin in time to spend “qual­ity time” with John be­fore he passed away.

His death stunned the mo­tor­cy­cling com­mu­nity and Stephen Dav­i­son, a jour­nal­ist who has an in­ti­mate and ex­pert knowl­edge of the sport, says: “When­ever you do some­thing that dan­ger­ous, the law of av­er­ages cuts in, but it was still a big shock with John, be­cause he wasn’t rac­ing. He was a per­son who looked af­ter peo­ple.

“For a lot of the rid­ers, there was a great un­ease af­ter­wards, be­cause this was the guy who had their back. So, what now?”

Janet was as­ton­ished at the re­sponse from bik­ers and emer­gency ser­vices as she led the cortege bring­ing John’s body back north from Dublin. Mourn­ers were on ev­ery bridge over the road.

She says: “There was a quiet com­fort in that, be­cause he had made a dif­fer­ence in peo­ple’s lives.”

Af­ter­wards, Janet says the cam­paign for an air am­bu­lance was spurred on by peo­ple-power and, in March 2016, eight months af­ter John’s death, it was an­nounced that fund­ing would be made

Cap­tion cap­tion: dp dpdpdpdpdpdp

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.