Firefighter thanks Great North Air Ambulance for saving his life after rock-climbing fall

Michael Patterson in hospital following his accident.
Michael Patterson in hospital following his accident.
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A firefighter says he is lucky to be alive after he fell 40ft to the ground in a horror rock-climbing accident.

Michael Patterson, 28, from Peterlee, was climbing with friends at Steel Rigg, Northumberland, when the incident happened in May last year.

Michael Patterson in hospital following his accident.

Michael Patterson in hospital following his accident.

He was close to the summit of the crag when he suffered the fall, with the Great North Air Ambulance (GNAAS) immediately called out to the scene to rescue him.

Nicknamed “Patto”, Mr Patterson, a firefighter with County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service, said: “I was near the top and onto my last move when a large boulder came away and unfortunately dislodged all my protection as well.

“I fell to the ground and hit my head.

“I was wearing a helmet which helped a lot, but I blacked out.

Paramedics from the Great North Air Ambulance tend to Michael.

Paramedics from the Great North Air Ambulance tend to Michael.

“Apparently I came round a couple of minutes later and wasn’t making much sense. My next memory is waking up in hospital about a week later.”

Fellow experienced climbers Jack Wilson, 24 and Bethany Liddle, 26, watched on as the drama unfolded.

Mr Wilson, from Sunderland, said: “He wasn’t breathing and his eyes were wide open. 
“It was awful. He looked dead.

“Then after what seemed like an eternity but was probably only a couple of seconds, he began breathing and we kicked into life.

The Great North Air Ambulance at the scene of Michael Patterson's accident in Northumberland.

The Great North Air Ambulance at the scene of Michael Patterson's accident in Northumberland.

“We started immediately on our first aid drills and Beth phoned the ambulance.

“Fortunately for us there was a doctor out walking and he came to help.

“He co-ordinated the first aid effort from there.

“I got reference points to bring the helicopter in, found out the name of the local pub and got a grid reference from one of the walkers.”

Paramedics from the Great North Air Ambulance tend to Michael.

Paramedics from the Great North Air Ambulance tend to Michael.

Miss Liddle, also from Sunderland, said: “Michael was quite agitated and aggressive, which was very uncharacteristic of him and key signs of a head injury.

“He was slipping in and out of consciousness.”

Mr Patterson had suffered a contusion to his brain, shattered his eye orbit and broke his shoulder.

GNAAS worked alongside the North East Ambulance Service’s Hazardous Area Rescue Team, Northumberland National Park Mountain Rescue Team and the North of Tyne Mountain Rescue Team.

They moved Mr Patterson down a steep slope and across uneven ground to the waiting air ambulance.

He was put into a medically induced coma by the aircrew – an advanced procedure carried out only by doctors - before he was flown to the Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary within 15 minutes.

He spent three weeks in hospital.

Mr Patterson, who is now fully recovered, has now visited the GNAAS Langwathby airbase to pay a personal thanks to the crew who went to his aid.

He said: “GNAAS are fantastic.

“It would have taken such a long time to be carried from the site to the road and then travelled to the RVI in an ambulance.

“Especially with an injury like mine which is time critical.

“It can make all the difference. I owe them a lot.”

Mr Wilson added: “It’s miraculous. He should be dead.

“The fact that he’s alive is amazing.

“GNAAS is invaluable.

“Without the air ambulance, we wouldn’t have Patto here today.”

GNAAS is this week celebrating 15 years as a charity.

For more information on the organisation go to www.gnaas.com.