Yesterday afternoon four members of the North-Cotswolds DMG met up for a few hours to help one of the guys with some clearing around a high seat. We were in a pretty inaccessible location in a woodland on a hill but overlooking Cheltenham and Gloucester. One of the guys was trimming a large heavy branch of a tree approx. 20' high, using a chain-saw. Another guy was holding and stabilising the ladder. As the branch came down it whipped around at an unpredictable angle and took out the ladder, so the man fell heavily and almost took out the second guy with his chain-saw. It was immediately obviously that the patient was seriously injured, and extraction by ambulance would be impossible, as the nearest access road was about 3/4 Mile away. We were lucky that one of us was a Doctor but ofcourse we only carried basic first aid kit and no analgesia or the correct equipment to stabilise the suspected leg/spinal/pelvis injuries. We called 999 and requested an Air Ambulance and with some difficulty managed to explain our exact location. Instead of the requested air ambulance a road ambulance turned up and than couldn't find the nearest access point despite it being clearly marked on standard maps. The paramedics had to be met by 4x4, all their gear transferred, and transported to the patient, where they commenced treatment and agreed an air ambulance was required after some discussions on the best possible way of extracting the patient from the hill. High winds, very few open spaces and very steep slopes forced the helicopter to land some 300 Yards away so the patient had to be carried for some considerable distance. After X-Rays and CT Scan we learned he has a broken hip, multiple fractures of the pelvis, and two broken vertebrae, so very serious injuries indeed and after an operation today a long, slow road to what we hope will be a full recovery.
Having had a rather restless night I think my current thinking -and also the reason of my post- is to reiterate the importance of carrying a mobile; knowing your exact location; know first aid and carry some first aid kit; never be on your own when using dangerous tools such as chain-saws, use the correct safety equipment (helmets, goggles, chain-saw clothing), think and work out where a branch will fall before you cut it off, and don't be too cavalier about safety thinking it will never happen to you.
It was also a revelation to me that when we spoke to the control room and specifically requested an air ambulance, and a doctor on site confirmed this, that the 'procedure' is to sent out a paramedic team to assess the situation before authorising an air ambulance to take off. On this occasion there were no chain-saw injuries but if there would have been we would have had to deal with potentially life-threatening bleeding as well on top of everything else, and the two hours it took from the moment of the accident to the patients arrival at A&E could have been too long.