Britain's Bravest - New Series! - Thursday January 9

britain’s bravest(1/10)

Dermot Murnaghan presents this brand new tenpart series exploring real-life emergencies, rescues and acts of bravery. The programme mixes powerful testimonies from the people involved with dramatic reconstructions. Tonight’s episode focuses on an air ambulance crew who performed emergency surgery on a woman who was critically injured in a car crash.

Britain’s Bravest relates the experiences of people who have survived devastating accidents and emergencies. The series features daring rescues from caves, mountains, seas, fires and traffic accidents, with first-hand accounts from the people involved and from emergency services including the fire brigade, air ambulance, police, RAF, navy, RNLI and coastguard.

Tonight’s opening instalment looks back at a terrible collision on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve, 2004. Gill Dawson was driving down a B-road in the town of Rothwell, Northamptonshire, when a car coming towards her lost control and veered into her path. The vehicle – driven by a 19-year-old man who had only just passed his test – collided with Gill’s car and sent her crashing into a tree.

The local fire brigade rushed to the scene, but lacked the proper equipment to cut Gill out of the car. An ambulance crew arrived and managed to give her oxygen and insert an IV line, but it looked highly unlikely that she could be saved.

Within 11 minutes of the crash, a Warwickshire and Northamptonshire Air Ambulance had reached the site. The helicopter crew comprised Dr Anthony Bleetman, a hospital consultant and air ambulance volunteer; paramedic Brian Dwyer; and pilot Charlie Pratt. They landed the helicopter in a field close to the crash and quickly assessed the situation. Gill’s car was virtually wrapped around the tree and she was clearly seriously injured; unconscious and struggling to breathe, she was bleeding profusely from a head wound and her legs were trapped in the wreckage.

The air ambulance team realised that Gill would need immediate treatment if she was to survive, so Brian and Anthony crawled through the smashed rear window of the car to anaesthetise her and ventilate her artificially. Tony cut open her chest to relieve pressure and re-inflate her collapsed lung – a procedure normally only performed in hospital.

As the paramedics worked on Gill, the fire brigade struggled to peel back the roof of the car. The firefighters lacked the hammer they needed to bash the roof free, so Brian resorted to hitting the roof with an oxygen tank. This provided enough force to loosen the top of the car. The paramedics worked for another hour and a half to keep Gill alive until the firefighters finally freed her legs from the car.

She was carried to the helicopter and rushed to Heartlands Hospital in Birmingham. During the flight, Gill went into cardiac arrest and had to be resuscitated twice.

Once at hospital, Gill was found to have a ruptured spleen, a broken jaw and a fractured skull, as well as extensive damage to her right leg. She was in a coma for a week, but thanks to Anthony and Brian’s actions in the field, doctors were optimistic that she would recover. They were eventually forced to amputate her right leg, but after many months of recuperation, she was finally discharged. With the help of an artificial leg and crutches, Gill has been able to return to her job as an IT analyst part-time.

For their remarkable work at the scene of the crash, Anthony and Brian were awarded a Vodafone National Life Saver Award in 2006 and were invited to a reception at Number 10, where they were personally congratulated by Tony Blair. Tonight’s episode also looks at the explosion at the Stockline plastics factory in Glasgow in 2004, and a shocking rally car crash.

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  • Chris

    When is Britain’s Bravest on?

  • BBC One
  • BBC Two
  • BBC Three
  • ITV1
  • ITV2
  • 4
  • E4
  • Film4
  • More4
  • Five
  • Fiver
  • Sky1