Dear Theresa May,

Belfast Telegraph - - LIFE -

avail­able for the ser­vice and in July 2017 it took off from a base at the for­mer Maze prison.

The air am­bu­lance re­sponded to 500 emer­gen­cies in its first year and doc­tors say peo­ple are alive to­day be­cause of the ser­vice.

Some of the body-cam and on-board he­li­copter footage in the doc­u­men­tary is re­mark­able.

Pi­lot Dave O’Toole says the paramedics who sit be­side him in the front of the he­li­copter are a huge help to him, be­cause they as­sist in the nav­i­ga­tion and the op­er­a­tion of the ra­dios.

In one mis­sion, a he­li­copter is seen land­ing in a field in Co Down, where Hill­town teenager Colm McAleavey sus­tained leg in­juries in a trac­tor ac­ci­dent.

“I started pan­ick­ing and freak­ing out,” says Colm, but the crew who dis­em­bark from the he­li­copter in­stantly try to re­as­sure him that he will be all right and they’ll be with him all the way to hos­pi­tal.

Stu­art Steven­son tells the doc­u­men­tary-mak­ers that the pri­or­ity is to re­main calm and pro­fes­sional and not to “run about like a head­less chicken”.

Mum Sinead McAleavey, who says she feared the worst, adds that the he­li­copter crew were good to her son, adding: “They kept him talk­ing and talked him through ev­ery­thing that was hap­pen­ing and re­as­sured him.”

Two of the other sur­vivors were both mo­tor­cy­clists who were in­jured in ac­ci­dents.

Sev­eral HEMS medics say that, even though bik­ers may have the best of safety equip­ment from head to toe, the po­ten­tial for in­jury is still high and they stress for need in get­ting all pa­tients to hos­pi­tal.

Medic Rob­bie Thorpe says: “We talk a lot about the ‘golden hour’ of de­liv­er­ing the care and, if we can get there and de­liver those life-sav­ing in­ter­ven­tions within a short space of time, it re­ally does im­prove mor­bid­ity and mor­tal­ity as­so­ci­ated with ma­jor trauma.”

Mo­tor­bike en­thu­si­ast Shaun Attwood says the air am­bu­lance crew who turned out af­ter his ma­chine col­lided with a car saved him.

He adds: “The idea of bring­ing the emer­gency de­part­ment in the mid­dle of that road is just un­be­liev­able.”

Also seen in the footage is George McMaster, who says he owes his life to the air am­bu­lance. He re­mem­bers noth­ing about his ac­ci­dent, which hap­pened near Bal­ly­wal­ter, Co Down.

George didn’t wake up for two months and dis­cov­ered he’d bro­ken his arm, eight ribs, a shoul­der blade and bones in his neck, as well as hav­ing per­fo­rated lungs, along with two brain bleeds.

“I wouldn’t have made it to hos­pi­tal with­out the air am­bu­lance,” says George. “Am­bu­lance­men and doc­tors said I shouldn’t be alive.”

The last word in the doc­u­men­tary goes to Janet Ach­e­son, who, look­ing for a pos­i­tive from her part­ner’s death, says it put the air am­bu­lance dis­cus­sions into the pub­lic do­main in a way that wouldn’t have hap­pened oth­er­wise.

Janet, who trea­sures a tiny model of a Lon­don air am­bu­lance that John’s mother bought for him, says his pass­ing gave her a pur­pose in life — to fin­ish his HEMS cam­paign.

“For me, it was an ex­ten­sion of the love we had felt for each other.

“I would al­ways have been an­gry with my­self if I hadn’t got it over the line for him.”

Air Am­bu­lance and the Fly­ing Doc­tors will be shown on BBC One North­ern Ire­land, Mon­day, 9pm

and, yes, be­fore we start, I do know that right now you’re up to your ox­ters in Brexit and back­stops and so might not be thrilled to be get­ting ad­di­tional un­so­licited mail from the likes of me.

But in a week in which we’ve learnt that the heir to the throne Prince Charles has such a work ethic that he of­ten labours late at night, wak­ing up slumped over his desk with bits of pa­per stuck to his face (ac­cord­ing to his sons, any­way), I’m sure you’ll want to be seen to dis­play a sim­i­lar ded­i­ca­tion to catch­ing up on cor­re­spon­dence.

And be­sides, that Leo Varad­kar is al­ways get­ting let­ters from here.

Don’t want you to feel left out.

I’m as­sum­ing once you saw the North­ern Ire­land post­mark you im­me­di­ately thought “bor­der”.

Af­ter all, it’s all any­one in the Cab­i­net and the EU Com­mis­sion ever talks about these days. How do you want your bor­der — hard, soft or medium-rare?

Never be­fore in his­tory has the po­ten­tial flex­i­bil­ity of any fron­tier been so ar­gued, an­a­lysed, dis­cussed and de­bated. Brexit is all about the bor­der. So it fol­lows that noth­ing else over here right now mat­ters at West­min­ster.

This, de­spite the fact that we ap­pear to be go­ing down the tubes and no­body any­where seems to care. Our health ser­vice is in cri­sis, schools are strained to the limit, Stor­mont has been re­vealed as a cesspit and un­elected civil ser­vants are left to carry the can... but it’s all about the bor­der, isn’t it?

Your Gov­ern­ment gives the im­pres­sion it couldn’t care less what hap­pens up­wind of that thin red line on the map. So long as they can sort Brexit, who cares if the rest of the coun­try is ac­tu­ally in free-fall?

So, yes, as I said, Theresa, I do know that you’ve such a lot on your plate right now. And that to you, the very thought of even think­ing about di­rect rule will be anath­ema. But here’s the thing — how much longer can you al­low this rot to fester?

I’m not even a fan of di­rect rule. Like most peo­ple here, I imag­ine, I’ve al­ways be­lieved that we’d make a bet­ter fist of run­ning the place our­selves than hand­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity (back) over to an out­side Sec­re­tary of State.

But read­ing head­line af­ter scan­dalous (and it has to be said, sick­en­ing) head­line in the last few months, I’ve reached the point where I just can’t see how we can — in the short-term, any­way — have trust in a lo­cal Assem­bly again.

RHI, SIF, Spads: it’s a whole al­pha­bet of dodgy deal­ing. And no party in the Assem­bly comes out of it look­ing

❝ It re­ally does im­prove the mor­bid­ity and mor­tal­ity as­so­cated with ma­jor trauma


It’s not a back­stop we need. It’s a back-step.

We need a proper breath­ing space — and most im­por­tantly, some­one to come in, clean up this mess and ac­tu­ally start to run the place prop­erly.

For the ben­e­fit of all the peo­ple of North­ern Ire­land.

It may have suited every­body, for a time, to turn a blind eye and hope our war­ring par­ties would sort them­selves out and get the show — how­ever shabby — back on the road.

But that isn’t hap­pen­ing.

And busy though you un­doubt­edly are, Prime Min­is­ter, the buck now stops with you. You may be at Brexit point, Theresa. But we are at break­ing point.

You’re fo­cused on the bor­der. We’re hov­er­ing on the edge. QUOTE of the week comes from Emile Ratel­band (right), a pos­i­tiv­ity guru, what­ever that is. In­spired by peo­ple self-des­ig­nat­ing as a dif­fer­ent gen­der, Emile wishes to self-des­ig­nate as 20 years younger and has taken his cam­paign to court, ar­gu­ing: “When I’m 69, I am lim­ited. If I’m 49, then I can buy a new house, drive a dif­fer­ent car. I can take up more work. When I’m on Tin­der and it says I’m 69, I don’t get an an­swer. When I’m 49, with the face I have, I will be in a lux­u­ri­ous po­si­tion.” How­ever he des­ig­nates, old Emile ob­vi­ously does not suf­fer from self-es­teem is­sues. WE all have our var­i­ous rea­sons why to chose to buy or not buy a poppy at this time of the year. And I have ab­so­lutely no prob­lem with those who de­cide not to. Your choice en­tirely.

But there are a few rea­sons why I feel very strongly my­self about buy­ing and wear­ing the poppy. And this year, on the cen­te­nary of the end of the “war to end all wars”, one in par­tic­u­lar is very much in my thoughts.

He was a young man of 31 years called Wil­liam McIl­venna. He came orig­i­nally from Co Antrim but he’d em­i­grated to Canada and, when war came, he’d en­listed with the Cana­dian Forces. He died in 1917 shortly af­ter the Bat­tle of Vimy Ridge. He lies buried in a French grave­yard.

He was my grand­fa­ther’s brother — my great-un­cle. Apart from that I know lit­tle about him.

Was he mar­ried? Did he have chil­dren? Do I have rel­a­tives some­where in Al­berta where he en­listed?

These things are lost to the past. But Wil­liam him­self isn’t. He smiles out of an old pho­to­graph coloured by some­one some­where along the line.

Just one more Ul­ster man among so many from this part of the world who gave their lives in that aw­ful slaugh­ter they call the Great War. To­mor­row at 11, we will re­mem­ber them.

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