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Working on Christmas Day is like being with a ‘second family,’ say Wales Air Ambulance frontline staff

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For most people, Christmas Day is spent with family and friends, unwrapping presents in sparkly jumpers and overindulging on festive food. 

However, December 25 can be very different for the Wales Air Ambulance team who are working over the holiday and waiting in the wings to help those in need.

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For the Wales Air Ambulance, Christmas is very much a “normal day” at work, but with an extra bit of festive sparkle and camaraderie.

Rebecca Cann, Critical Care Allocator, said spending the day with her colleagues is like being with a second family.

She said: “We are with a family although it might not be our family at home. Our work family is like a family, and we are there to make sure that the day becomes the best day it can for everybody and help people where we are able to. 

“Working Christmas Day is like any other day. We have to be alert and on top form every day of the year and hopefully, by us being there, we can turn what might be the worst day of somebody’s life into a better outcome.”

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The all-Wales Charity needs to raise £8 million every year to keep its helicopters in the air and rapid response vehicles on the road all over Wales, 24/7 – even on Christmas Day.  

That is why it is asking people to support the Big Give Christmas Campaign between midday Tuesday 29 November and midday Tuesday 6 December 2022. During this week, all donations made will be match funded, meaning a £10 gift would be doubled to £20, which will help the Charity continue serving Wales and saving lives. One donation, double the impact.

Donations must be made via the dedicated Christmas Challenge webpage. Any donations made via the Wales Air Ambulance website will not be match funded. 

The theme for Wales Air Ambulance’s Christmas Challenge is ‘Our Christmas Heroes’. The Charity will be highlighting medics, pilots and allocators, who are all on standby, ready to provide critical care interventions to those in need over the festive season.

Santa is not the only one working this Christmas

Father Christmas isn’t the only one who will be working over Christmas. Whilst many people will be surrounded by family and loved ones this Christmas, the Wales Air Ambulance will continue to serve the people of Wales. Here Wales Air Ambulance’s Christmas heroes, Rebecca Cann, Critical Care Allocator, Edward Terry, Co- Pilot and Mike Palmer, Critical Care Practitioner talk about what it is like to work on Christmas Day and what they enjoy about the festive period. 

Can you tell me about your typical day and will Christmas day be any different? 

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Mike Palmer: “A typical day would be a standard day as normal. We’ll come in, get our uniform on and sort out our kit. Then we’ll prepare the aircraft and the rapid response vehicle so we are ready for the next mission.”

Edward Terry: “Christmas Day will be pretty much the same as most shifts. It will start with a crew brief, we will get the helicopter ready and once we are set then we must be available for tasking from then on, so pretty the same as every other day really. We might have a little celebration, here and there, but it will be pretty much the same.”

What is the Christmas season like for the Wales Air Ambulance?

Rebecca Cann: “The Christmas period can be a busy time for us. There are lots of celebrations ongoing, lots of people riding bikes that they haven’t ridden before and falling off them, so please celebrate but please be safe.” 

Edward Terry: “The weather can really affect where we fly, we have got to look out for low cloud and low visibility. We’ve got to think about icy conditions, so wintertime it can be quite cold.”   

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When will you celebrate your Christmas? 

Rebecca Cann: “We are celebrating Christmas on 19 December this year when I am off, much to my children’s delight as they get to open their presents a week early. It is something we have done for the last 11 years since we’ve had children. They are used to it, but they are proud because they know that people need help every day of the year.”

Mike Palmer: “When I’ve worked Christmas Day in the past and when I work Christmas day in the future, I normally celebrate Christmas Day a couple of days before with family, friends and loved ones so we have the normal day, having presents and food and celebrating it together.”

What is your favourite thing about Christmas? 

Rebecca Cann: “My favourite thing about Christmas is the run-up to Christmas.  I like the feeling that seems to surround the season. Everything seems a little bit more twinkly and the coming together of friends and family, be it on Christmas Day or any other day, if you’re working like we do in the emergency services.”  

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Edward Terry: “My favourite thing about Christmas is spending it with family. Obviously, when you are on shift you are getting to spend it with your work family as you could call it. Spending time together is the best part about Christmas.” 

What is your proudest moment? 

Edward Terry: “I have been a pilot for 10 years and a commercial pilot for five years. My proudest moment is starting to work for the Wales Air Ambulance. It’s a job I have always wanted to do and to be able to do it is a lifelong dream and achievement, so my proudest moment is becoming co-pilot here at Cardiff especially with the 24 hour operation. It’s a really good job.”  

Mike Palmer: “Hearing stories from patients getting better, going back to their loved ones and then spending Christmas together again.” 

Have you ever seen Santa on his travels whilst you are flying to patients across Wales 

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Edward Terry: “When we are working nights, we have got to look out for Santa on his sleigh.  Keeping a good look out is a crew responsibility so everyone in the aircraft will look out for Santa to make sure he has his navigation lights on and we are not going to hit him when we are landing. Keeping a good look out is priority.”

Double your donations for the Wales Air Ambulance Charity through The Big Give Christmas Challenge 2022 by visiting https://bit.ly/BigGiveWAAC between midday on Tuesday 29 November and midday on Tuesday 6 December 2022.

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