An intensive care doctor has spoken of the “paramount importance” of a second emergency helicopter for London as she told how the capital’s only air ambulance saved her life when she was knocked off her bike.
Dr Chloe Baker, 29, knew she was critically injured and in desperate need of urgent medical attention when she was run over by a lorry in East Sheen as she rode to medical school.
“I was aware that I was bleeding internally and that one of my lungs had punctured,” she said. “The bleeding, I was very conscious, is a time-critical problem. I knew that the only way of solving it was by going to an operating theatre. It was frightening. I knew I didn’t have much time.”
A doctor and paramedic from London’s Air Ambulance were quickly on the scene. They put her to sleep, inserted a breathing tube and performed a chest drain to enable her to breathe. She was then flown to the Royal London hospital, in Whitechapel – where she now works as a trainee anaesthetist – for emergency surgery.
Dr Baker told me: “The air ambulance saved my life. I was critically unwell at the roadside and was told later on that I probably wouldn’t have survived [road] ambulance transfer to the nearest hospital.
“I was lucky enough to be run over on a day where the air ambulance was functioning. It’s of paramount importance for all Londoners for there always to be an air ambulance available for these time-critical patients such as myself.”
The charity that runs London’s Air Ambulance needs £4.4 million for a second helicopter to enable its crews to fly longer each day and to ensure there is never a time without air cover, which happened on 55 days last year. A second aircraft would enable it to reach an extra 400 critically ill patients a year.
Dr Baker, who now lives in London Bridge, has recovered fully from the collision in 2007 and was able to join NHS medics fighting Ebola in Sierra Leone over Christmas. She ran the London Marathon to raise funds for the air ambulance and hopes to eventually join its team of trauma specialists.
The collision happened when she “foolishly” tried to undertake stationary traffic and the lorry suddenly turned left over her onto a pavement.
“I remember shouting and perhaps swearing and trying to get my myself and my bike on to the footpath away from [the lorry],” she recalled.
“The next thing I remember, I was lying on my back with a wheel across my abdomen and my hands on it, trying to push it off my tummy, and still somehow managing to croak a shout at the lorry driver to stop. I was dragged some distance. I was left looking at the sky wondering how I was going to get up.”
She spent 10 days in the Royal London and two weeks in a hospital nearer to home. She suffered an “uncountable number of fractured ribs”, a collapsed lung, a lacerated artery to her spleen and had her pancreas cut in two.
“I’m lucky to be alive because of the air ambulance,” she said. “I’m lucky to have the quality of life and the full recovery I’ve got thanks to the Royal London.”
* To donate £5 to the appeal for a second helicopter, text HELICOPTER to 70800.
* An edited version of this story appears in today’s Evening Standard.