Countess of Wessex celebrates 21 years of air ambulance service that saved her life

The Countess of Wessex braved the wind of White Waltham airfield on Thursday, as she met with Thames Valley Air Ambulance (TVAA) – a service that saved her life in 2001.

Sophie suffered an ectopic pregnancy nearly 20 years ago, which almost cost her her life. She was airlifted by TVAA from Bagshot Park to central London for treatment, which of course she remembers clearly. The Royal underwent a two-and-a-half-hour operation, losing the baby.

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The Countess became TVAA’s royal patron last year, and got to meet crew members, as well as other former patients at the Maidenhead airfield (from a safe distance).

White Waltham airfield was the location of the organisation’s first base back in 1999. To the end of July 2020, the charity’s services had been dispatched to 24,561 call-outs.

Sophie was given a guided tour of a  helicopter, being shown some of the advanced medical equipment on board and sat in the pilot’s seat for a look.

The Countess of Wessex in the pilot’s seat of a Thames Valley Air Ambulance helicopter (Royal Family)

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The Royal chatted to former patients Charlotte, Spencer and Ross, who recounted their experiences of TVAA’s life-saving help.

Charlotte was assisted in September 2013, aged 21, when her car skidded off the road, going down a 30-foot embankment. Six months after her accident, she visited RAF Benson to meet some of the charity’s crew, and it inspired her to become a paramedic. Charlotte finished her training in July, so is now also a life-saver.

The Countess joked with Charlotte that she ‘didn’t recommend’ having an accident in order to discover your career path.

Spencer, meanwhile, talked about his cycling incident in May 2019, which was life-threatening. Acting Medical Director for TVAA, Stewart McMorran, who attended the incident described Spencer as ‘the sickest patient he had ever seen who had gone on to make a recovery’.

He then went on to complete a 100-mile fundraising bike ride to allow the air ambulance to help more people.

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TVAA, like other air ambulance services across the UK are funded overwhelmingly by generous public donations, with very little – if anything – in the way of government support. The charity serves communities in Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire, and more than 2 million people.

During lockdown, the Countess kept in touch with the organisation, video calling them.

This royal event kick started the ‘Patients at Heart’ campaign, as well as a published history of the charity and a ‘21 Challenge’. Locals are being encouraged to take part by either riding 2.1km every day for 21 days, or dancing or playing an instrument to 21 different pieces of music, or any activity completed 21 times.

You can donate to TVAA’s work here.
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