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Thames Valley Air Ambulance celebrates milestone with visit from Countess of Wessex

A charity which provides a lifesaving service to those in need celebrated its 21st anniversary with a royal visit on Thursday.

Sophie, Countess of Wessex, visited White Waltham Airfield for a Thames Valley Air Ambulance event, meeting former patients and crew.

Since the air ambulance was launched in 1999 it had received call outs to 24,561 incidents. 

White Waltham Airfield was the charity's first operating base and it was there that the service was dispatched to attend to the Countess when she needed vital care in 2001.

Her Royal Highness has been a patron of the charity since January 2019 and was given a tour of the Thames Valley Air Ambulance helicopter, invited to step into the pilot’s seat as well as being shown some of the advanced medical equipment onboard.

She also met with former patients of the charity, Charlotte Ballard, Spencer Hillier and Ross Dilnot.

Charlotte told the Countess that in September 2013, when she was aged 21, she was involved in an accident which led to her car dropping down a 30-foot embankment. Six months on during a visit to RAF Benson it inspired her to become a paramedic and she completed her training in July. 

Spencer spoke about his cycling accident in May 2019 which nearly cost him his life. He said: “Despite some of the riskier missions I undertook as a pilot for the RAF, the closest I came to losing it all was my cycling accident. The doctors and paramedics at Thames Valley Air Ambulance who fought to save my life by operating on me for two hours by the side of that road, are the reason why I am still here today.”

The royal visit marked the beginning of a two-month campaign called 'Patients at Heart' which encourages the public to fundraise for the charity by taking on any activity centred around the number 21, such as riding a bike for 21 days. 

Thames Valley Air Ambulance chief executive Amanda McClean, said: “I want to give my thanks and deep appreciation to everyone who has contributed to the remarkable progress the charity has made over the last two decades.

"We are dedicating this anniversary to all the patients and their families that we have stood alongside. We hope that it will be just as much a celebration of their lives, milestones and achievements, as it is about us as an organisation.”

(Picture credit: Telegraph/Heathcliff O'Malley)

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