Grateful climber backs appeal to fund vital helipad in Sheffield

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Since the age of 16, John Jones has been an avid climber, with his love of heights and the sheer adrenalin of the sport taking the father, grandfather and retired university lecturer all over the world.

But after setting out on a local climb with friends at Stanage Edge in the Peak District, he had little idea that he would end the day being airlifted to Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital, fighting for his life.

An injured John Jones being helped off Stanage Edge by Edale Mountain Rescue

An injured John Jones being helped off Stanage Edge by Edale Mountain Rescue

He was taking part in a climbing competition in June arranged by the British Mountaineering Council when he ended up at the bottom of the crag seriously injured.

“I fell off a route right from the top of the crag about five metres onto a big block,” said John, aged 70, from Dore.

“I stepped up the last step on the route and it was an easy move but I had no hand holds so I think my foot slipped and I fell backwards with nothing to hold on to, it just happened like that.”

John fell onto a boulder landing on his ribs, causing severe and multiple internal injuries, including a damaged spleen, three broken ribs and a punctured lung.

John Jones

John Jones

“I can remember being put in the helicopter and being flown to the Northern General.

“I don’t remember a great deal after that until I was in the hospital with a lot of doctors around me looking worried and saying it was very serious.”

After four days in intensive care he was transferred to the high dependency unit for the rest of that week, and then spent another week in an ordinary ward before being allowed home.

John is now supporting the Saving Time, Saving Lives appeal, run by Sheffield Hospitals Charity and backed by The Star, which aims to raise funds for a new £2 million helipad at the Northern General.

John said: “I feel fantastically grateful to everybody involved - the mountain rescue, the air ambulance, everyone at the hospital and the NHS in general.

“They couldn’t have been any better. It was so quick, and they looked after me so well. If I hadn’t got that rapid rescue, it’s quite likely I would have bled to death.”

He added: “Fifty-four years of climbing all over the world on thousands and thousands of routes and I fall off an easy one on my doorstep! You never know when it might happen to you and that’s why I’m asking everyone to support the helipad campaign.”

The appeal was launched in October to raise the remaining £425,000 needed to build the landing site at the Northern General so that patients can be transferred from the helicopter to the emergency room in seconds.

The current pad, which is over 20 years old, is located away from the hospital and requires a secondary transfer into A&E by land ambulance.

The pad is also too small for many modern search and rescue aircraft, has no lighting so cannot be used at night, and is located in a dip close to trees, against official safety guidelines.

Isla Denoon, fundraiser at Sheffield Hospitals Charity said: “John’s story is testament to how important the helipad is, enabling patients like him to receive life-saving treatment as quickly as possible.

“Some people think of a helipad as a lump of concrete with a big ‘H’ painted on it - we, however, know that it’s a critical link between the helicopter and the hospital.

“You never know when you or a loved one may need treatment for a major trauma and building a new helipad right outside the doors of A&E will save precious time and precious lives.“

n To find out more about the appeal, or to make a donation, visit www.sheffieldhelipad.com or call Sheffield Hospitals Charity on 0114 271 1351.

Donations of £5 can be made by texting HOSPITAL10 £5 to 70660. Texts cost £5 plus network charge.

The charity receives 100% of each donation. Obtain bill payer’s permission.

For more details call the customer care line on 0844 847 9800.