Nick had suffered with an irritable cough for many months but didn’t appreciate the extent of his condition despite his wife Sarah, a former nurse, urging him to seek help. Finally, after being taken to Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital by land ambulance over Christmas 2011 for x-rays, he was diagnosed with Farmer’s Lung, a condition brought on through the inhalation of the fungus that can be found in most compost heaps.

Nick accepts that he should have worn a face mask when handling the cattle bedding, but believed, as many do, that problems only happen to 'other people’. He now suffers from brittle asthma, is very susceptible to illnesses and must take continuous antibiotics to prevent infections. Sadly, one consequence of Nick’s medical issues is that he and his wife had to sell their animals and let the land. Nick explained:

I now do contract work with a JCB and ploughing as and when I can. All the people I help out know about my condition and understand if I have to change arrangements last minute.

Managing the condition

When Nick is delivered to the hospital by air ambulance, he will already have been given large amounts of oxygen and often a steroid, administered by the clinical crew. The hospital then continues treatment until his condition becomes manageable again. With Nick’s illness changing so rapidly from one moment to the next, the amount of time he then spends in the hospital can vary greatly from only a few hours to well over a week.

Nick has huge admiration for the medical teams that have kept him alive. He still rarely believes that he’s ill enough to justify the air ambulance being called out and often struggles with the idea of phoning 999. However, both land and aircrews have told him that they never mind going to his assistance because, they say, 'When we come to see you, you’re always pleasant'.

Nick’s farm is just a few hundred yards from the Devon Air Ambulance Community Landing Site in Winkleigh, one of over 120 around the county. As an additional visual aid for the air ambulance,  Nick has installed an illuminated windsock on his farm to ensure that it’s visible and to light the local lane, which helps the whole community.

Despite flying multiple times, Nick admits that his anxiety about needing to be airlifted hasn’t diminished.

I've now flown with them about eight times and know that, despite my fears, I must stay calm and focus on breathing steadily. I’m always very grateful for the aircrew’s calm professionalism, despite the seriousness of the situation!

As well as trauma incidents, about half the incidents Devon's Air Ambulances attend relate to medical incidents. It is thanks to the incredible support of those who fundraise for us, play our lottery, volunteer, donate, shop in our shops, or remember us in their will that we are able to fly. Would you like to help keep urgent critical care getting to those patients who need us, then there are all sorts of ways to help