Emergency paramedics in Midlands to star in new TV series
A call is received to a serious industrial accident, where a man has fallen on an angle grinder, and Tom Waters heads out to the scene, blue lights blazing and sirens blaring.
"We can get pretty much anywhere in the West Midlands within 10-12 minutes," says the critical care paramedic, who has served with the air ambulance charity for six years.
"There is an element of nerves when you go out to a job like this, it's only natural. You will think in your head about all the different scenarios, and what you are going to do when you get there.
"At the same time, there is a danger you can think about it too much. You can never really know until you are actually there and see what the situation actually is."
Tom will come under the spotlight in a new television series which begins tonight, following the doctors and paramedics who serve with the West Midlands Ambulance Service and the independent Midlands Air Ambulance charity, which cover the whole of the West Midlands and Shropshire.
The quietly spoken 32-year-old from Ludlow previously made the news as one of a team which helped save the lives of 18-year-old Leah Washington and 20-year-old Vicky Cooper during the Alton Towers rollercoaster crash in 2015.
Tom, along with Dr Dave Cooper, climbed 40ft to treat Leah and Vicky, who both had to have part of their legs amputated following the horrific accident.
Their heroics saw them win a national award for their efforts.
He will appear throughout the new series, which sees specially trained paramedics battling at the roadside to save a 13-year-old boy left with suspected brain injuries following a road accident.
With time ticking the critical care paramedics use their enhanced diagnostic and life saving skills to prioritise treatment so he can make it to hospital and be treated.
As a critical care paramedic, Tom is part of an elite group of highly trained experts who go out to emergency situations, and provide specialist treatments which a few years would only have been possible in a hospital setting.
"The technology and the training has moved on greatly, I would say the last four or five years have seen a massive increase in all care," he says.
In another incident featured in the series, the air ambulance is scrambled from RAF Cosford with an emergency doctor and critical care paramedic on board after a woman is thrown from a horse.
Suspecting she may have broken her back and have internal bleeding, the helicopter lands in a nearby field just in time, although the ambulance crew are concerned she may not make it to hospital in time.
But it is the industrial accident, near Walsall which Tom remembers as being one of the most notable incidents he had to deal with.
He is seen racing to the scene in a specially adapted car which the Air Ambulance charity provides, arriving to find the man with severe injuries to his abdomen.
"He fell on an angle grinder while climbing a ladder," says Tom.
"In situations like this the patient is going to need a certain degree of care when you get there, and you will need to take specialist drugs with you."
Life and death
While dealing with people in life-and-death situations is all in a day's work for specialist paramedics such as Tom, he says he is usually able to stay emotionally detached from situations.
"I don't tend to get emotional about certain jobs," he says.
"I'm not really surprised by anything I see any more, I just think about the job that is before me, and what I have to do."
The series, which was filmed before the coronavirus outbreak, also sees paramedics called to a horror car crash in Dudley, where a vehicle appears to have been chased and driven off the road, before hitting a kerb, somersaulting in the air, and smashing into a lamp-post. At first glance, it seems hard to see how anyone could survive, but paramedics are swiftly on the scene to save lives.
In another scene, a woman calls 999 after her 79-year-old father has stopped breathing and suffered cardiac arrest.
She is guided through emergency resuscitation as the ambulance heads towards them.
If the man is to survive he will need to be placed into an induced coma and rushed to hospital while the paramedic takes control of his breathing. It’s a risky, highly skilled procedure normally only seen in operating theatres but it’s the only way to save his life.
Another harrowing incident sees a 71-year-old woman fall over in her home, her broken ankle bone piercing the skin creating an open wound.
In agony, it takes her two hours to crawl across the room to call 999, and the ordeal causes her to suffer a heart attack.
The all-night trauma response team of a doctor and critical-care paramedic are called out, using their advanced skills to reset the ankle without anaesthetic, and get her to hospital before she loses the leg.
Anthony Marsh, chief executive of West Midlands Ambulance Service, says the programme gives a real insight into the support that critical-care paramedics and doctors provided by the air ambulance charity can give to its own ambulance crews who are dealing with some of the most complex patients.
“It demonstrates how they work with the crews on scene to use their enhanced skills to benefit patients," he says.
"Without the work of the staff on scene, the teams wouldn’t be able to use those skills, so it really is all about working together.
“The teams provide critical care at the scene that save lives, brains and limbs, including pre-hospital surgery and pre-hospital anaesthesia.”
Ian Roberts, air operations manager for the Midlands Air Ambulance Charity, says the programme gives a unique insight into the work of a critical care team in the Midlands.
He said: “The pre-hospital doctors and critical care paramedics on-board the helicopters and critical care cars bring specialist skills, advanced medicines and procedures to an incident scene and work together with colleagues in the ambulance service to give the patients the very best chance of recovery and survival.”
- Ambulance: Code Red launches at 9pm tonight on Channel 5