Family repays its debt to air ambulance heroes

A Norfolk family has raised enough money to cover the cost of their emergency air ambulance call-out – but said they will never be able to repay the debt of gratitude they owe to their airborne heroes.

Teenage sisters Elizabeth and Vickie Lee, from Freethorpe near Acle, were both badly injured in a road accident in Strumpshaw on April 13.

The East Anglian Air Ambulance (EAAA) was called because of a painful laceration around Vickie's waist, caused by her seat belt, which prompted concerns about possible abdominal injuries.

After surviving the crash and fighting back to fitness, the family organised a charity auction at Acle High School on October 26 which, combined with a charity bingo night at Hemsby Village Hall has raised �2,100 for the medical charity.

Coincidentally, the figure is roughly the amount of money it costs the EAAA for one average call-out – proving the need for continued fund-raising to keep the helicopters flying.

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After presenting a cheque to the EAAA, Lesley Lee, who is Elizabeth and Vickie's mother, said the family was determined to continue their efforts to raise money for the life-saving service which helped her daughters in their hour of need.

She said: 'They were there for my family so it is nice to give something back, but this is going to be an ongoing thing.

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'Hopefully by promoting this we can encourage other people to do some fund-raising. It is only because of the public that these guys can keep flying.

'I want people to realise that if this could happen to us, then it could happen to anybody. They were there for my kids and I want them to be there for everybody else as well. My beautiful girls are OK and I'm so lucky to still have them.'

Elizabeth, now 20, has recently completed an exhaustive period of physiotherapy after breaking her right leg, her left ankle, her collar bone and her breast bone in the crash. She said: 'It is nice to start finding a new form of normal. It is a positive end to a bad situation but it is nice that we can show some appreciation for these people, who tend to get forgotten as the hospital gets all the thanks.'

Neil Waller, captain of the EAAA helicopter based at Norwich Airport, said all fund-raising was vital, particularly as the service prepares for the launch of night-flying operations by the end of this year.

He said: 'It costs �4.2m for the two aircraft at Cambridge and Norwich which cover the EAAA region, and to add night-flying to that is going to cost another �1.8m.

'Any amount of money makes a difference, whether it is a �2,000 cheque or �2 dropped in at the office.

'The people of the East of England are very generous because they know that without these services, places like the North Norfolk coast are a 50-minute ambulance ride to the Norfolk and Norwich hospital, which for some people could be the difference between life and death.

'What we are providing is pre-hospital and trauma treatment which is over and above what you would see in an ambulance. It is about bringing a bit of the hospital to the side of the road, and saving people's lives in the sleet, the snow or the mud at the scene.'

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