Two Norfolk car crash survivors have paid tribute to the helicopter medics who saved their lives, after helping to mark the organisation’s 40th anniversary.

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Emergency medical charity Magpas has attended more than 60,000 patients since it was founded, and invited 13 of them to a Cambridgeshire airfield to share their experiences.

For some, it was the first time they came face-to-face with the life-saving pilots and paramedics, as none of them can clearly remember the traumatic events which changed their lives.

The survivors included two women from Norwich and Swaffham, who both almost died in horrific road crashes, but had no idea of Magpas’ life-saving intervention until after they recovered.

Kanta Patel from Thorpe Road in Norwich, was severely injured on Easter Sunday as she was driving back from visiting family in London.

The 48-year-old civil servant said she had no recollection of the accident which caused her car to roll over five times, leaving her arm pinned under the weight of the vehicle.

“The first witnesses at the scene were a junior doctor and a nurse – they both thought I was dead,” she said.

“They saw my eyes were open but knew I was not there. I was very lucky that those people were there, and that I was not alone.

“There was a long delay with ambulance and Magpas were called when the paramedic couldn’t do anything for me because I was in such a bad way.

“I remember waking up very briefly for a few seconds. All I could see was the dashboard and somebody was squeezing my hand. I was not frightened, it was just like a dream.

“I never even heard of Magpas until after this happened. They are called in extreme life or death situations and I am a very lucky lady to be living in the East of England where we have this service. “Saying ‘thank you’ will never be enough. They do all this free of charge and do not expect any recognition. They are just passionate about saving lives.

“It is truly humbling and I still get a lump in my throat when I think about it. I was a stranger to them, but they treated me as if I was the most important person in the world.

“If it was not for them, I know I would have been dead on that cold stretch of motorway. It has been an emotional journey, but I am here, and just so grateful to be alive.”

Ms Patel was taken to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, but didn’t know about Magpas’ involvement until July, after which she was able to meet the doctor who treated her, Dr Darren Reid.

“What struck me was his amazingly gentle manner,” she said. “He had to make a split decision about what to do, and it was a life or death thing for me.”

Suzanne Martin, a nurse from Swaffham, became one of the most severely injured patients the charity has ever attended after she was involved in a head-on collision with a van as she drove to Castle Acre to pick her son up from school in June 2010.

She broke both legs, an arm, ribs, toes and her collar bone, and also suffered burns and a punctured lung.

“I broke almost everything from head to toe,” she said. “The crews called for air support because time was of the essence. Magpas came out and sedated me and did various procedures by the roadside before flying me up to hospital.

“Things were touch and go. Reflecting back on what you hear in the aftermath, they were not sure whether I would survive the flight – but I did.

“My volunteer doctor turned out to be a consultant from Peterborough. He got the treatment started straight away and got drains into my lungs. For me to have had them come out, and the combination of speed and expertise they had on board – and a bit of my own stubbornness – meant I survived.

“I was lucky, if that’s the right word. I have got quite a fondness for Magpas. You never think you will need them but, when you do, these magic people turn up and whisk you away.

“It was good to speak to other patients too. Physical injuries can be very obvious, but you can’t tell someone’s emotional injuries until you speak to them.”

Magpas’ “Helimedix” are despatched by the ambulance service when on-scene crews recognise that essential A&E level care is needed. The charity’s teams of highly-trained doctors and paramedics can then deliver enhanced treatment and administer drugs which are not usually available to paramedics.

A Magpas spokeman said: “It has been an absolute privilege to be able to meet some of the people Magpas has attended from around the Eastern Region and to be able to sit down and have a proper chat – knowing they are doing well.

“It was an extremely powerful day and a great many moving stories were shared. Many thanks to everyone who joined us for our 40 year celebration of saving lives.”

The charity receives no government or National Lottery funding and relies entirely on donations from the public.

For more information, see www.magpas.org.uk.

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