A paramedic for the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance (HIOWAA) has described how his work and the charity’s has changed as they look ahead to Christmas.

Dave Zaple is a HEMS (helicopter emergency medical service) paramedic for the air ambulance, providing lifesaving care to patients as they are transported to hospital.

While their lifesaving work is much the same as before, Covid has forced the charity to adapt how it does its job. In addition to new cleaning regimes and safe undressing procedures following every incident, there’s a lot of new kit to handle.

“People have still been getting injured and becoming seriously ill despite the pandemic, so in that respect the work has been similar to pre-Covid,” said Dave. “The major difference has been how we have to respond to each incident. We mostly operate in level 3 PPE which is a tyvek suit, 2 pairs of gloves, FFP3 face mask, hat and visor often on top of part of our flight suit.

“This adds an extra layer of complexity on incidents as communication is much more challenging and with the added layers it is also a lot warmer!”

Covid has also hit HIOWAA’s fundraising, with the “awesome” charity team unable to conduct their full program of events.

Instead, they’ve had to change their events and challenges to fit with the restrictions, such as making their fun run Dash in the Dark virtual so vital funds could still be raised. Dave has also been getting involved personally in the events.

“To look for other ways to fundraise the Charity put on a virtual quiz night on the HIOWAA Facebook page, which raised well over £3,000,” he said. “I played quizmaster on more than one occasion, so I guess I wasn’t too terrible at it?!?”

The charity has also just launched its Christmas appeal, where they have called on members of the public to donate £5 each towards the costs of their work.

“We don’t stop for Christmas,” said Dave, “and will be there for the most seriously ill and injured people in our region when they need us. Last December we were called out to 195 missions, which is up by 35 on the same period the year before. Even though the country has entered a second lockdown, there’s no reason to believe we won’t be equally as busy as we were last year.

“Whilst many of us will miss spending time with our loved ones through the festive period I’m very fortunate that I work with a fantastic group of people who are very much like an extended family. There’s always plenty of food around on base to keep us fuelled throughout the festive season too!”

To learn more about the charity’s work, and how to support it, please head to: https://www.hiowaa.org/