Saving Time, Saving Lives
Real life stories
Scotland's Charity Air Ambulance (SCAA) is there for the people of Scotland, 12 hours a day, every day. We save and improve hundreds of lives every year, attending medical emergencies and trauma incidents that require urgent and expert medical attention.
Here are the real life stories of just some of the people we've helped.
Not just a simple ear infection...
- Steve thought he had a simple ear infection
- Deteriorated rapidly with what proved to be Bacterial Meningitis
- SCAA was able to fly to Steve’s aid in minutes
- "I don’t believe I would be here today without SCAA"
Steve thought he had a simple ear infection – albeit an increasingly painful one. But when he passed out through agonising pain and deteriorated rapidly with what proved to be Bacterial Meningitis, it became a race against time to get him to hospital.
And in a remote and rural part of Scotland – with the quickest emergency response being helicopter – Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance (SCAA) was to prove a lifeline for the former commando.
Steve explained. “The morning I passed out, I was scrabbling through the medicine cabinet trying desperately to find something that would give me relief as my head felt ready to explode.”
His wife and a close neighbour and friend tended to the barely conscious Steve and a 999 call brought a locally-based paramedic racing to the scene. Calls to doctor support confirmed suspicions of meningitis, recognising that Steve was failing fast.
Completing a mission several miles away, SCAA was able to fly to Steve’s aid in minutes and paramedics worked rapidly to treat and prepare him for the flight to hospital.
Steve’s wife Lynne followed by car to hospital and admits it was “the longest journey ever. I was terrified he would be gone when I got there,” she said. “I was so worried I would lose him.”
Four days later Steve regained consciousness in ICU and was horrified to learn of how critically ill he had been. And doctors told him there were no guarantees he would have pulled through if SCAA hadn’t got him to hospital so quickly.
“To wake up to that information was really scary – and really sobering,” said Steve, who runs an outdoor activity company. “I’m reasonably fit – how could this happen to me? “I thought I just had an ear infection – I could never have guessed it would be a touch-and-go race against the clock. And I don’t believe I would be here today without SCAA. It makes you realise how crucial an air ambulance is for remote areas. They saved me when time was running out and I will spend the rest of my life thanking SCAA.”
A motorcycle ride gone wrong...
- Mark was enjoying a motorcycle ride through Scotland’s
- Unaware of the multiple injuries he had suffered
- "Within minutes we were landing on the rooftop"
- Broken femur, a shattered kneecap, ruptured hamstrings and a major deep wound at his Achilles
One minute Mark was enjoying a motorcycle ride through some of Scotland’s most spectacular scenery – the next he was catapulted through the air, bounced along the tarmac and smashed against a crash barrier, sustaining horrific injuries.
As passing motorists on the well-known Rest and Be Thankful roadway rushed to help, Mark could see his beloved motorcycle lying broken and tangled in the crash barrier 30 metres away. Shrapnel-like pieces of the metalwork had flown past him or struck his helmet as he landed.
“I felt I couldn’t breathe,” he recalled. “Pain was starting to creep in to various parts of my body and I was aware my clothes were covered in the fuel running down the hill towards me. I was crushed against a barrier that had stopped my flying over a sheer drop. There was only its metalwork between me and certain death.”
Mark’s motorcycling buddy was busy stopping the traffic and calling the emergency services as others – including mountain rescue personnel who had been nearby – tried to keep the injured rider safe and comfortable.
“I could see blood and couldn’t move my legs,” he said. “I was aware that one of my boots was facing the wrong way which looked bad.”
Mark was unaware of the multiple injuries he had suffered and how serious they were. And with a tailback of traffic stretching for miles in both directions, a road ambulance would have difficulty getting through to him.
SCAA, however, was already in the air and heading Mark’s way.
The helicopter landed on a cleared section of the roadway and expert paramedics were soon tending to Mark’s injuries.
“They were 100% looking after me – what a special team of people,” said Mark. “I was a little hazy with the pain but I remember being anxious about going in a helicopter as I suffer from claustrophobia – even though that seemed the least of my worries!
“SCAA’s crew was great,” he added. “They kept my spirits up, reassuring and calming me and ensuring my pain was at a bearable level at all times.
“Within minutes we were landing on the rooftop helipad at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital and facing the start of a long period of treatment and rehabilitation.”
Mark sustained a broken femur, a shattered kneecap, ruptured hamstrings and a major deep wound at his Achilles. He has promised his wife his motorcycling days are over.
“As a motorcyclist I now know first-hand the very vital role SCAA plays in Scotland,” he said. “When you are seriously injured or ill in the middle of nowhere, these guys are your best hope of survival – there’s few others could reach you in time.
“I’ll always be grateful for what SCAA has done for me – they picked up the pieces after a horrendous accident and helped ensure I will enjoy a full recovery eventually. My riding days might be behind me but I’m glad my motorcycling friends have a service like SCAA in the air to look out for them.”
Trapped following car crash...
- Lucy and a friend were trapped in the back of a two-door vehicle
- Passers-by raced to help the students
- SCAA were on scene within 20 minutes
- Fractured clavicle, serious whiplash injuries & two hand fractures
Glasgow School of Art student Lucy, 21, was looking forward to a trip to the West Coast with friends. But as she travelled north on the A9 near Dalwhinnie, the car suddenly veered off the road and rolled before coming to rest on its side.
Two men in the front pulled themselves free of the wreckage but Lucy and a friend were trapped in the back of the two-door vehicle.
“My friend was squashed beneath me but we couldn’t move. I could feel my face was hurt, there was blood on my hands and my neck and back were really painful. I was frightened.”
Passers-by raced to help the students and emergency services were quickly on the scene, assessing injuries and stabilising the vehicle before cutting the girls free.
“I felt more calm when the firefighters and ambulance crew were there – the first I was aware of the helicopter air ambulance was when I was being loaded into it.”
The potential of serious neck and back injuries prompted the call to Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance, who were on scene within 20 minutes. SCAA airlifted Lucy to hospital in Dundee – just 25 minutes by air but nearly two hours away by road.
Lucy was diagnosed with a fractured clavicle, serious whiplash injuries and two hand fractures. She is still undergoing physiotherapy and treatment for PTSD.
“SCAA is an amazing resource for Scotland. Everyone thought my injuries were worse than they turned out to be but if they had been critical, SCAA would have played a key role in saving my life. As it was, their speed, professionalism and care made a huge difference to what was a really traumatic experience.”
Lucy and her family were unaware of the charitable status of SCAA but when they found out they pledged to do something to help. Lucy’s mum Sarah works with PwC in their Edinburgh office. She managed to secure a £1,000 donation from her colleagues and their staff charity GAYE scheme.
“We’re so grateful to SCAA for being there when Lucy needed help. Their input made a huge difference and we’re happy to do what we can to ensure they keep flying for others in similar need.”
“The crew were lovely – they kept me talking and made terrible jokes while they monitored and cared for me during the flight”
River kayaking accident...
- Alistair broke his back in two places
- "Without SCAA it could have been a different story"
- SCAA flew Alistair to hospital in under 10 minutes
- Nine weeks after his accident, Alistair was back in his kayak
It was an adventurous manoeuvre Alistair had done many times before. But when the front of his kayak struck something as he pushed over the 15-foot drop from the bank into the River Avon, the 39-year-old mechanical engineer knew he was in trouble.
Alistair broke his back in two places as the kayak slammed down hard on the water below and the boat rolled over trapping him helpless beneath the raging current.
“My mates managed to drag me free and haul me to the bank,” recalls Alistair. “The pain was excruciating and I was so cold. I was aware of people around me, cutting my clothes from me and wrapping me in blankets and heat pads. Every minute seemed like an hour. Then I heard the helicopter overhead and people told me I was being airlifted to hospital.”
Search and Rescue, Scottish Ambulance Service and Police Scotland all helped SCAA paramedics carry Alistair from the steep-sided Avon Gorge to the waiting helicopter.
“It was a real struggle to get me up the steep slope and through the undergrowth,” he said. “The pain was unbearable – every step they took was agony for me.”
SCAA flew Alistair to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary in under 10 minutes.
“The paramedics were great – very professional – and the treatment on route to hospital was fantastic.”
Alistair also praised the speed and comfort of the charity air ambulance.
“I dread to think what pain and discomfort I would have been in travelling by road,” he said. “SCAA’s speed and comfort makes a huge difference when you’re in agony and every movement is torturous.”
Alistair spent several days in hospital and a further six weeks on crutches as he pushed himself to get fit again. And nine weeks after his accident, Alistair was back in his kayak.
“The trick is to go over a fall into the river at around 70 degrees so that you slice safely and smoothly into the water below,” he said. “When my kayak clipped something and it sent me off the bank horizontally that day I knew it was going to hurt. Hitting the water was like hitting concrete.
“I’m nearly back to full fitness again but without SCAA it could have been a different story. They got me quickly and comfortably to hospital and that made a huge difference.
“SCAA is a top notch team and a charity well worth supporting – my friends saw the part SCAA played in my rescue and we’ll be doing what we can to fundraise.”
Crushed by his dumper truck at work...
- Crushed by a two-and-a-half-ton dumper truck
- Flight to hospital took 18 minutes, it would've been 90 minutes by road
- Spent nearly two weeks undergoing operations, skin grafts and treatment
- A badly smashed shin and ankle and several broken ribs
As the two-and-a-half-ton dumper truck slowly toppled over on the slope, driver Kevin McNab tried to jump clear. Landing on soft ground he looked back to see the vehicle crash down on top of him – the roll bar crushing his chest and the body of the vehicle smashing on to his leg.
Despite agonising pain, Kevin managed to wriggle into the soft ground and pull himself free of the dumper.
“I really thought I was going to die under my own dumper truck,” said the 42-year-old landscape gardener from Strathtay. “I then thought about my kids and that gave me the strength to make a superhuman effort to pull myself free. I think adrenaline took over.”
The severity of Kevin’s injuries meant he was only able to drag himself into a sitting position against the still-running vehicle, miles from anywhere on the south shore of Loch Tay.
“I was then able to reach my mobile phone and dial 999,” he explained. “My workmate was breaking rocks at the other side of the property and couldn’t hear my shouts above the engine but luckily I had the phone and the ambulance controller kept me on the line talking and reassuring me that help was on the way. “My friend eventually realised something was wrong and came to find me and did what he could to make me comfortable. The pain across my chest and in my leg was horrendous and I prayed for help to come quickly.”
That help, in the form of local farmers, First Responders, an ambulance crew and Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance (SCAA), all arrived within seconds of each other and paramedics quickly assessed the situation and started pain relief for Kevin.
He was then stretchered to the nearby helicopter and airlifted to Ninewells Hospital where he spent nearly two weeks undergoing operations, skin grafts and treatment for a badly smashed shin and ankle and several broken ribs.
“I was signed off work for four months and spent a lot of time unable to walk or on crutches,” he said, “but I know it could have been a lot worse, the care, professionalism and speed they bring is second-to-none and I’m so glad they were there when things went horribly wrong for me. Scotland’s lucky to have such a dedicated service and, although you never think you will need them, we should all be grateful they’re there”.
“SCAA is an absolutely tremendous service. They got me out of a remote area and into hospital within 18 minutes – the same journey would have taken at least 90 minutes by road”