A BELL-RINGER who was injured in an accident at his church has repaid the £4000 cost of the air-ambulance flight that took him to hospital.
Robert Wood raised the cash with a sponsored peal in Ripon Cathedral last Saturday. He and 11 colleagues spent three hours 20 minutes ringing the 5000 changes of a Stedman Cinques Peal. By Wednesday, the total on his Just Giving web page had reached £4129.07.
“The air ambulance crew were fantastic,” he said. “I was just so grateful to be flown to hospital within minutes. They saved me from what would have been a long and painful journey of over an hour on winding roads.”
Mr Wood, aged 62, an experienced ringer, had been checking the bells at St Mary and St Alkelda, Middleham, in the Yorkshire Dales, when he slipped. “I didn’t fall far,” he said, “but I came down heavily on a metal peg. It caught me under my chin. I realised I had a problem straight away: there was a lot of blood. I knew I had broken my jaw, as I couldn’t close my mouth properly.
“But adrenalin is amazing stuff. I shouted for help to my colleague who was below. I managed to climb down to the ringing room, and he got me out of the church and called an ambulance.”
The paramedics recognised that he needed surgery immediately, and called in the Yorkshire Air Ambulance helicopter, which flew him the 45 miles to the specialist trauma unit at the James Cook Hospital, Middlesbrough. Surgeons took four hours to rebuild his jaw with metal plates, and his face was so swollen that doctors had to insert a tracheotomy pipe so that he could breathe. He was eventually allowed home five days later. Now, nearly seven months after his accident last June, apart from some numbness in his lip, he is back to normal.
Soon after the accident, he decided to show his gratitude by raising funds for the service. “You see the air ambulance, and put your loose change into a collection tin, never ever thinking that one day you will need this fantastic service,” he said. “I asked them how much it had cost. They said it takes £12,000 a day to keep flying, and they average three rescues a day; so I said: ‘That’s simple, then: it’s £4000 for me to raise for you.’”
Last November, he gathered a team of fellow ringers from across England at Stockton Parish Church, near the James Cook Hospital, to attempt the peal, but a bell-rope broke after 95 minutes, and the peal was postponed to last weekend.
By coincidence, his rescue was recorded for an episode of the series Helicopter ER, which shadows the Yorkshire Air Ambulance, on the UKTV channel Really. It will be broadcast at 10 p.m. on 30 January.
To sponsor Mr Wood, visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Robert-Wood-Bells.