Thames Valley Air Ambulance marked 21 years of service and announced a milestone of over 24,000 call outs.

The Air Ambulance launched the charity’s 21st anniversary celebrations on the eve of Air Ambulance Week which runs from September 7-13 and recognises the lifesaving work of Thames Valley Air Ambulance and the other 20 services in the UK.

The charity celebrated with the its crew, The Countess of Wessex and former patients at an event at its first base, White Waltham Airfield and has dedicated the anniversary to its former patients and families, theming the 8-week celebration, ‘Patients at Heart’.

The service launched in 1999 and White Waltham Airfield in Maidenhead, Berkshire was the charity’s first operating base.

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It was from this base that the Air Ambulance service was dispatched to attend to The Countess of Wessex when she suffered an ectopic pregnancy in 2001 and was airlifted to hospital.

At the celebration, the Countess 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.

In September 2013, Ms Ballard experienced a life-threatening incident. At the age of 21 her car skidded off the A34 near Chieveley dropping down a 30-foot embankment.

Six months on, a visit to RAF Benson to meet some of the charity’s crew inspired her to become a paramedic, with her completing her training in July of 2020.

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Mr Hillier talked about his cycling incident in May 2019 and the charity’s acting medical director Stewart McMorran described him as ‘the sickest patient he had ever seen who had gone on to make a recovery’.

To mark the years anniversary of the incident Mr Hillier completed a 100-mile bike ride to fundraise for Thames Valley Air Ambulance.

Mr Hillier 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.”

For the anniversary the charity launched a ‘Bake Off For Take Off’ photo competition where supporters posted a picture of a birthday cake that they have baked and also encouraged fundraising through the ‘21 Challenge’.

The charities chief executive Amanda McClean said: “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.”