CIRCUMSTANCES can often change our career paths.

For Lisa Dempster it was the devastating loss of her brother at the age of 22 in a motorbike accident that prompted her to leave her secretarial role and train to become a paramedic.

“That made me think I wanted to go in the direction of helping people,” says Lisa, whose two sons were babies at the time.

It is 16 years since Lisa joined Yorkshire Ambulance Service fulfilling a role which has seen her called into action on numerous occasions from helping to deliver babies to dealing with people who are poorly.

The 44-year-old, who lives in York but is originally from Bradford, was used to the fast-paced nature of the job when she joined the service’s air ambulance team in 2015.

For Lisa, helping to save lives from the air was an ambition she had longed to achieve after joining the service.

“I knew I wanted to work on the helicopter from joining - I always thought that was my goal, that is where I wanted to be.”

Lisa admits training and working as a paramedic was ‘challenging.’

“The first few years are really challenging because you have a lot more things to think about,” she explains.

After three years Lisa could apply to join the Air Ambulance crew - a goal she achieved in 2015.

“You need a wide variety of experience because when you get on the helicopter everything is much faster.

“You have to be comfortable with your paramedic skills, know your guidelines. Everything is quick timing. You need to get more done on the scene because there is limited space in the aircraft,” she explains.

Lisa has had to put her skills into practice on a number of emergencies - some more unusual than others such as rescuing a climber who was stuck on top of the hills and couldn’t get down.

Other call-outs aren’t as straight forward and many times Lisa and her colleagues are actually dealing with life or death situations.

“Working on the aircraft it is dealing with life or death and there are lots of jobs you go to you are making a difference,” says Lisa.

She explains how the jobs they attend are all ‘time critical.’ Examples include industrial accidents such as workers trapping limbs in machinery, road traffic accidents and heart attacks.

She recalls being called out to a climber who had a broken ankle on Pen-y-Ghent, one of Yorkshire’s famous Three Peaks.

“We couldn’t get the air craft to the top because it was fogged in so we had to bring in the mountain rescue team,” says Lisa, indicating how working as a team with another rescue organisation led to a happy ending for this particular operation.

Often the Air Ambulance is called into action if the patient suffers a heart attack in a remote location as timing is crucial, and it can be quicker to get to the patient by air rather than by road.

Working in shifts, Lisa explains as well as working on the aircraft they also take their turn to despatch the aircraft. This involves listening to the 999 calls and using their clinical experience and knowledge.

The Dedicated Air Desk involves the rapid dispatch of their helicopters to an incident and the swift medical interventions provided by air ambulance crews have a major impact on a patient’s chance of survival and subsequent quality of life.

Currently, the Yorkshire Air Ambulance charity operates two helicopters based at Nostell Air Support Unit, near Wakefield, and at RAF Topcliffe, near Thirsk.

Almost one in five of the aircrew working for this independent charity, which provides life saving rapid response emergency service to five million people across the whole of Yorkshire, are women including a female pilot.

Says Lisa: “I just love being able to try and save people when they are really really poorly, offering the care they need to get on the road to recovery.”

* Since the charity was set up in 2000 it has been serving the people of Yorkshire with its life saving service which is operational seven days a week, 365 days a year.

* The Charity currently attend an average of four incidents every single day. Last year (2018) they attended 1,858 incidents and carried 416 of those to hospital for emergency treatment.

* To keep its Air Ambulances in the sky it costs the charity £12,000 a day - the equivalent of £4.4m a year - so it relies heavily on the generosity of donations.

* In addition to its helicopters, the charity has also introduced Night Vision Operations (NVIS) over the last two years enabling it to extend its operational hours to earlier in the mornings and later in the evenings.

* Carrying blood on board has also enabled critically injured patients to receive transfusions at the scene of accidents or in the air.

For more information or to support Yorkshire Air Ambulance visit

By Sally Clifford