Last Tuesday (17 October), 40-year-old Tom Locke, from Hythe in Kent, the director of a construction company and father of two with a third child on the way, fell three stories from the roof of his house while trying to remove nesting pigeons from behind solar panels.
He landed on the patio on his left-hand-side and fractured every bone in his face, as well as sustaining an open femoral fracture, a fractured wrist and forearm, a dislocated elbow and severe haemorrhaging.
His partner, Lydia Clark, heard the fall, rushed outside to find Tom on the patio and called an ambulance. After describing Tom’s injuries to the 999 call operator the decision was made to send an air ambulance, which arrived around 20 minutes later. Tom was intubated at the scene, and arrived on the helipad at King’s around 25 minutes later.
Following stabilisation in the Emergency Department Tom was moved to the Intensive Care Unit and the next day had his femur fixed, wrist set and was given a tracheostomy so he could be woken up. He has since undergone 10 hours of facial reconstruction and is making a good recovery.
Tom said: “Without the helipad I probably would have died, so I’m so grateful for King’s and the air ambulance crew for saving my life. You really don’t realise how crucial it is until you need it – thankfully my boys and unborn child still have their daddy.”
Lydia added: “Without the helipad Tom may not have made it in time. This whole experience has had such a dramatic effect on all our lives, and thanks to the helipad and team at King’s our family has been kept together. Looking back I can see how much difference the extra minutes the helipad saves can make – the traffic near King’s was so bad on the day that Tom was brought in that I ended up getting out of the car and running to the hospital.”
Mr Rob Bentley, Consultant Craniofacial Surgeon at King’s and Clinical Director for The South East London Kent and Medway (SELKaM) Major Trauma Network, said: “Tom’s story is a prime example of ‘Time is Life’ – the campaign we launched to raise money to build the helipad – as it demonstrates the importance of getting critically injured patients into King's Trauma Centre and receiving specialist care as soon as possible. We receive some of the most seriously injured patients in the south east, and the helipad means that these patients are now receiving equity of access to the care they urgently require despite the distances involved, thanks to the helipad and air ambulance service.”
A year ago today (26 October) the helipad at King’s College Hospital officially opened. The helipad has already saved lives, helping the hospital serve its trauma population of 4.5 million people across south east London and Kent. In the last year alone 162 patients have been brought to King’s by air ambulance.
Since its opening the helipad has had a massive impact, significantly decreasing the time it takes to transfer patients from the scene of an accident by helicopter to the Emergency Department. Before the helipad opened helicopters landed in nearby Ruskin Park and patients were transferred to the Emergency Department by road – adding a further 25 minutes to the patient’s journey, time that is now being saved.