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Page last updated at 11:06 GMT, Tuesday, 22 September 2009 12:06 UK
Paramedic is a helicopter hero

By Carole Green
BBC York & North Yorkshire

Paramedic Lee Davison with the Yorkshire Air Ambulance
BBC TV's Helicopter Heroes highlights the life-saving work of the air ambulance

Lee Davison never intended to become a hero. He left school at 16 with hardly any qualifications and drifted in and out of quite a few jobs over the years gaining a private helicopter pilot's licence along the way.

He then joined the ambulance service in York, and after working behind the scenes he decided to apply to go on the road and trained as an ambulance technician. After 18 months he qualified as a paramedic and is based at Harrogate ambulance station. Looking round for another challenge he applied for an emergency care practitioner's course, which meant a stint at university;

"I went to Hull University which was a real eye opener! I'd hardly had any education never mind higher education! It was very daunting. The course was 16 weeks then six months of clinical placements at Harrogate District Hospital. This made me realise I couldn't do ward based job. I preferred to be at the sharp end - out and about."

Paramedics Lee Davison and Tony Wilkes with the Yorkshire Air Ambulance
Lee and his crewmate Tony Wilkes have become TV stars

Lee applied to join the Yorkshire Air Ambulance, a good way to combine his love of flying with his new medical skills. He was unsuccessful first time round because of his lack of experience, but it was second time lucky when he tried again a couple of years later.

The air ambulance paramedics are seconded to the Yorkshire Air Ambulance charity. The charity provide the aircraft and the pilot, the ambulance service provide the paramedics.

Lee says: "It's a tough job because it does expose you to trauma on a daily basis, but because of television programmes like Casualty many people think we go to trauma based incidents job after job. It's not; we do a lot of routine ambulance work too. A paramedic only uses his skills 5% of time on the road. That goes up rapidly goes up when you're on the air ambulance though.

"Each crew does four weeks on the road ambulances and four weeks on the air ambulance to keep all our skills sharp."

Lee, and his crewmates are based at Leeds Bradford airport (LBA) and they have all become TV stars thanks to the BBC TV series Helicopter Heroes which came about following the high profile crash involving Top Gear's Richard Hammond.

Yorkshire Air Ambulance
Helicopter Heroes is on BBC1 at 9.15am, Monday to Friday until 30 October

According to Lee the TV programme gives a good idea of how they work: "Viewers will see that one of us sits in the front with the pilot and helps him to navigate to the scene. They are also in constant contact with our dedicated dispatch desk at LBA and they help us to build a picture of the incident, so we have an idea of what to expect when we get there.

"If you're in the back of the helicopter, it's up to you to jump out as we land and get to the patient and liaise with the road crew if they have arrived before us. You have to think quickly and on your feet. We have to consider the best interests of the patient. Which hospital will be best and do they need specialist treatment."

The television programme has also played no small part in highlighting the important work all the air ambulances across the country do every single day of the year.

It costs a staggering £7,200 a day to keep the two Yorkshire Air Ambulances in the air and they rely entirely on generous donations from individuals and organisations.

Lee says: "One of the most rewarding things about working on the air ambulance is when you lift a patient, be it for a medical reason or for trauma, you build a fund-raising base.

"We've raised money with one particular family - we lifted their daughter from a road accident. She recovered and along with her family has gone on to raise hundreds of pounds. One thing her mum said to me, sums up what it's all about; 'I can only do what I'm doing because you gave me back what I wanted. So I'm just repaying what I can'".

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