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Aircraft handler helps deliver baby while working with ambulance service

PO Martin Harvey
24 June 2022
A Royal Navy aircraft handler working alongside frontline ambulance staff has spoken of how he helped a woman who had unexpectedly given birth.

Petty Officer Martin Harvey was part of the military support given to the Welsh ambulance Service from unprecedented pressures on its personnel.

In his day job, he serves with 1700 Naval Air Squadron and is part of the team supporting flying operations on the Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship RFA Argus.

For three months earlier this year, the 35-year-old from Glasgow was paired with a paramedic as a volunteer ambulance crewmember in Rhyl, covering emergency calls across north Wales.

He said: “We were in the ambulance when we got a red (high priority) call of a woman complaining of stomach pains. We were on our way to the house when we got stood down from it. We were blue-lighting to another call but then got sent back again. We were the second crew to arrive.

“I walked inside, and this woman was sitting there, holding a baby - with the umbilical cord still attached. It was totally unexpected apparently. I talked to her and made sure she was ok. I took her blood pressure and did all the checks. She and the baby were fine.”

Himself a dad-of-three, Petty Officer Harvey said it was still a surprising situation, adding: “It was certainly different – a bit of an eye-opener. That was one of the happier times. We did some other much more stressful things on other emergency calls.”

It was certainly different – a bit of an eye-opener. That was one of the happier times.

Petty Officer Martin Harvey

Petty Officer Harvey was one of 19 sailors based at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose in Cornwall who worked as ambulance drivers in Wales within the last year.

They found themselves thrust into the brutal reality of emergency calls, attending all manner of often harrowing incidents from car crashes to medical seizures or suicides. 

Lieutenant Commander Graeme ‘Geordie’ McCutcheon, from Jarrow, is a helicopter pilot and instructor with 750 Naval Air Squadron. He worked out of Carmarthen and Aberystwyth covering the south of the country and praised the paramedics who they worked alongside every day.

“We were doing 12-hour shifts which are brutal - and we always ran over time,” he said. “I’d often overrun by three hours. The jobs just didn’t stop coming. Even when you want to go off shift, they just keep coming in.

“Working with the ambulance service felt very familiar to me,” he added. “They have the same sense of humour – you know? That gallows humour you get in the military. What impressed me always though was their bed-side manner with the patients.

“While we are put under periods of intense pressure in the navy, the difference between them and us is they are doing it every single day. I would say they’re really professional and generally very good at their job.

“I learned respect for another group of professionals who you might just drive past in the street without a second thought. I think the next time I pass an ambulance crew in the supermarket, I’ll buy their lunch for them.”

Their work was part of wider assistance from the military to NHS hospitals and services across the country in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.


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