Thank you so much for being here and reading this.
In a hurry? Give me one minute to tell you the bare facts.
Why: At any moment, someone you love could be hurt. Terrifyingly, horrendously hurt. The air ambulance can fly them to hospital best equipped to save their life in under 20 minutes. They did this 6 months ago for someone I love. And without our donations, they cannot keep running.
What: I am riding my motorbike from where helicopters came hurtling into my life to where they first came into the world. From RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire, I will cover almost 900 miles over 5 countries in 2 days passing through Douai, France, and ending up in Berlin. (See below for more details). I have never ridden abroad before, or covered anything like this distance.
And why do they need donations?
Because they save lives every day. Because without our help, they can't continue. And because the day after we stop donating, maybe it'll be your life that needs saving.
It costs £4000 for one person's life-saving trip. Please help me to raise enough to save someone else's life. JustGiving is spam free, risk free, reclaims Gift Aid to increase your donation and all the money goes directly to the charity.
Thank you so much!
And now, the more detailed version.
What happened 6 months ago...
Last year, I was fairly ignorant of the air ambulance. I knew they existed - I knew they did good work - I knew people who had been in them and had their lives saved. So did my boyfriend, Tony, who had seen two particular close friends smashed to pieces while racing motorbikes, and seen the air ambulances scoop them up and take them not just to the nearest hospital, but to the hospitals with the most relevant specialties to their particular injuries - and faster than they would in a ground-bound ambulance. Both of these friends not only survived despite horrific injuries, but have made incredible recoveries. And a large part of that is due to the speed with which they made it from hillside to hospital.
When the second of these two accidents occured at Cadwell Park in August 2011, I was there too. Tony and I zoomed north to join the victim's wife at Hull hospital. The sight of him in intensive care had us all in tears. But while the thought of Tony returning to the racetrack to continue his passion of hobby racing and perhaps ending up in the same situation was terrifying to me, the experience didn't seem to have turned my partner from his dream of racing again in 2012. We fought, bone-weary and tearful, when we got home. I remember saying 'I don't ever want to see you like that...'
But passion shouldn't be extinguished by fear, and I stood by Tony as he rose up and up through the rankings in 2012. He achieved his first ever race wins, and was third in the championship by the time we arrived back at Cadwell Park in August. It was a favourite, twisty track of his, and he was making great strides in the first race of the weekend, battling for second place and seeking to punch through into first on the last lap...
I could write a novel on the next few months of our lives. But you have stuff to get on with. Let me sum up.
The crash. The wait. The fear. The paramedics. Being held back. Holding his unresponsive hand as his bed was wheeled to the helipad. Watching as he was loaded in. The drive to Hull. The same waiting room as last year, where we sat together and cried for a friend. Intensive care, the same, and the same bed as a year ago. I don't ever want to see you like this. The news, mixed, shoulders and ribs and lungs. The pipes, tubes, apparatus. 3 days comatose. Family. Friends. Speaking to an unconscious mind until my voice was gone. Awakening. Eating. Transfers. Home. Infections. A team, his will and my strength. A team, suffering, 24 hours a day. Pain, appointments, time, tears, recovery.
And where are we now? Tony is alive and well, driving (though not riding yet) and back at work. The legacy of his accident is the occasional session of physio, a tendency to get a little out of breath from the previously collapsed lungs, and daily exercises to increase the movement in his shoulder. The race bike is sold.
But we both feel a debt. Tony for his own life, once he was awakened and filled in on what had happened. He is planning his own fundraising because of what he feels he owes.
Mine is different. I owe on my own behalf, because they saved someone that I love. That is a gift that I can never repay. But maybe I can raise money so that someone else, someone as ignorant as I was of how such a service could affect my life so deeply, can watch through their tears as the air ambulance saves the life of someone they love.
I wanted to ride from where the helicopter that affected my life is based - RAF Waddington, near Lincoln - to where the first helicopter was invented. Turns out the history of the helicopter is long and baffling, with inventors from many countries turning out prototypes of varying designs and successes. Some people consider Da Vinci's sketches and models of the 'aerial screw' the invention of the helicopter, though children played with bamboo flying toys in China as early as about 400 BC. However, after many hours of research, I decided upon my targets.
Firstly Douai, where the brothers Jaques and Louis Breguet built the Gyroplane No. 1 in 1907 which lifted its pilot into the air (about 2 feet for 1 minute), and later that year fellow French inventor Paul Cornu furthered advances with his Cornu Helicopter, which is credited with the first free flight of a rotary-wing aircraft.
And then onto Berlin. Heinrich Focke created the FW 61, often considered the first practical, functional helicopter, which was first flown in 1936. It is difficult to ascertain exactly where this took place, but this machine was famously (and somewhat infamously) piloted by Hanna Reitsch at the Deutschlandhalle sports stadium in Berlin in 1938. While Ms Reitsch was notoriously a captain of the Luftwaffe and a star of Nazi party propaganda, she was also the first female helicopter pilot, a fearless flier who flew a rocket plane, and one of the first people to pilot the FW 61. After WWII she was invited to the White House, to India; she founded the first black African national gliding school in Ghana, and broke and set many gliding and flying records, some of which still exist to this day. I feel that the site of the first female helicopter pilot's display of the first functional helicopter is an fitting target for my journey, so I will be riding to where the Deutschlandhalle was located before its destruction.
I will be undertaking my mission in early June. Exact dates will be weather dependent, but I will be updating this page regularly with my plans. When I set off I will post updates and photos of me and my bike at different points along the route so you can track my progress! I will be wearing a big T-shirt over my bike gear with the web address for this JustGiving page in case anyone wants to look out for me or look up and donate.
I have never ridden my bike abroad. I considered doing a few little trips into France before undertaking this journey, but my sense of adventure wouldn't allow it. I haven't ridden anywhere like this number of miles in one go, and especially not on such a short deadline. Wish me luck...
It's not a fundraising ploy to say that this service cannot operate without our help. The air ambulance could not afford to run without charitable donations. And £4000 per person is a hefty taxi fare - but worth it to save a life. Unlike some causes where you don't know where your money is going, here you can see it, flying around in a bolt of yellow on the blue - your money goes directly into paying for the helicopter, its fuel, its equipment and the staff aboard.
It has also been pointed out to me that while I am trying to drum up donations from people all over the country, some might question why they should support this particular air ambulance and not their local one. I would say that while all the air ambulance services countrywide are equally worthy of your support (and by all means please do donate to your local charity!), we never know where, when or who will be hurt and require assistance. It could be horse riding, country walking, or a car crash. I was raised in Essex, went to university in the West Midlands, have ridden racetracks in Wales and Kent, and yet the service that has personally affected me is the Lincolnshire and Nottingham air ambulance.
Please give whatever you can, because every pound will count directly towards saving a life. I am trying to raise money and awareness for this incredible service as widely as possible, so if you could help by sharing this web page with your friends or through social networks that would also be a great help.
Thank you so, so much for your interest and generosity. Check back soon to see how I am doing!