We reflect and celebrate the women who have been pivotal throughout our history to mark International Women’s Day
We’re proud to mark International Women’s Day by celebrating all of the fantastic women who have been so immensely critical in KSS’ 31-year-history and who remain so vitally important today.
We were founded in 1989 by Kate Chivers, who was the driving force behind a team of people determined to provide a dedicated air ambulance for Kent.
Kate says: “To adopt a project such as the introduction of a helicopter air ambulance and steer it forward to a viable conclusion requires motivation and conviction. My background in public service provided both example and inspiration. Having worked for a number of years for leaders in the nursing profession it had been my privilege to work with strong, dedicated and talented men and women who had devoted their lives to caring for sick and injured people. The concept of care being delivered by skilled ambulance crews to the scene of accident or illness in a fraction of the time taken by a land ambulance offered a very exciting development in pre-hospital care, using a helicopter to access the patient in all circumstances and in all terrains and being equipped to land on major road, in fields and woods, even on railway line or golf course.”
Our first patient was sixteen-year-old Michelle Leather in December 1989, who we flew to the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford, where she was able to receive life-saving treatment.
We only flew during daylight hours and were a paramedic-led service. Over the years our service has evolved and adapted, with the introduction of specialist doctors on board in autumn 2005. This was a crucial move, the benefits of which still remain core to us.
In 2007, we extended our service into our neighbouring counties of Surrey and Sussex, neither of which had a dedicated air ambulance before. In 2013, we became the first UK Air Ambulance to provide a 24 hour Helicopter Medical Service.
We are now a world-leading, 24 hour Helicopter Emergency Medical Service, covering four counties; Kent, Surrey, East Sussex and West Sussex.
But what happens when someone needs us?
We have seven Dispatchers, four of whom are female, who scan 999 calls to identify serious trauma and life-threatening medical emergencies, where our assistance could help make a real difference.
Amanda Sands is one of our Dispatchers and says: “I’ve been a Dispatcher at KSS for five years and I am still excited to be part of such an amazing team. I am in awe of all of our female Paramedics, Doctors, and hopefully sometime in the future, Pilots, who have broken down barriers in their respective areas and specialisms, to deliver the amazing patient care that they do. Many of our crew are also doing this whilst having that other important caring role, that of a mother.
“I’d also wish to pay tribute to all the pioneering women within the Ambulance Service, some of whom I still work with and see, who came before me, and made it possible for me to do the job I do today.”
Amanda, along with her colleagues allocate missions from the ambulance control room at Coxheath.
When the call comes, our aircraft can reach any part of the region within 25 minutes. Each of our missions is attended by a Doctor – typically a specialist in anaesthesia or emergency medicine – and a Paramedic who is trained in critical care and accustomed to challenging environments.
Dr Maja Gavrilovski is one of our highly skilled Doctors and also works as an Emergency Medicine Consultant at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust.
Dr Gavrilovski, who has been a member of Team KSS since 2016 says: “I can proudly say I have the best job in the world! Previous generations of women have fought for us to have the privilege of being able to be female medics, so we can only draw a great inspiration from their perseverance and continue in their footsteps for the next generations. If you are interested in medicine, follow your dreams, do not underestimate the impact your voice and your knowledge will have.”
Lara Hammond is one of our Paramedics and joined Team KSS in 2019 from London Ambulance Service. She is also currently studying a Master’s Degree in Emergency Medicine and comments: “Working as a Paramedic for KSS really is one of the best jobs, it’s a complete privilege to be able to work in such a dynamic and interesting role where there are always new challenges and opportunities. I work alongside a fantastic and inspiring team of people and I know that the work we do really does make a huge difference to those who need us.”
Our specialist crews attend more than 2,500 missions a year.
It costs more than £15 million a year to sustain our life-saving service, 88% of which is raised and donated by people of Kent, Surrey and Sussex.
Our Income Generation, Marketing and Communications teams are led by Lynne Harris, who has been a vital member of our charity since 2004.
Lynne comments: “I have seen KSS evolve over 17 years and am so proud of the ways in which we’ve grown, ultimately meaning we can care for more people across our regions. I want to thank all of the inspiring women who have played such a vital role in KSS’ history. From our founder to our Trustees, to every single fundraiser and volunteer who has supported us over the years, we celebrate and thank you all for your time and commitment to KSS. We are so thankful to all of our hugely dedicated and generous supporters who ensure we can continue delivering our life-saving service 24/7.”
As of January 2021* we have more than 115,000 active, financial supporters, at least 58% of whom are female, who go above and beyond to ensure we can be there for those who need us.
Wendy Kane is one of these inspiring fundraisers who has taken part in a number of events. Wendy has raised more than £12,900 for us in total.
Wendy adds: “I am so proud to be able to support KSS. I sadly lost my son when he was 21-years-old, which was devastating, especially at such a young age. But KSS did everything they could to help him, and got him to hospital alive meaning we were able to say goodbye.
I took up running to help deal with my grief and I’ve since taken part in various events to support them including the Brighton Marathon, London Marathon, a 100 mile charity run and I’m now planning a 185 mile run along the Outer Hebrides. KSS simply can’t continue to do their vital work without our support.”
Our dedicated supporters and volunteers play a remarkable and invaluable role in all of our achievements. They are truly inspiring and without them we quite simply wouldn’t be able to deliver our world-class care.
Linda Harrild has been a Team KSS volunteer for 16 years and says: “I joined as a volunteer in order to help keep the service running as I was well aware that I, my family or my friends could need it at any time. As a working woman, I fitted in emptying collection boxes for the charity during my lunch hours, and also helped out at weekends. Since I joined, I’ve watched the charity grow, and the care for patients advance substantially.”
Our team of volunteers, from different backgrounds and across a range of ages, commit to giving their time and energy in a variety of ways. Without their dedication, our charity simply could not raise the funds and awareness we need to be there for those who need us most.
Our Trustees are also volunteers who selflessly give so much of their time to support and guide us.
We are incredibly proud to be led by Dr Helen Bowcock OBE DL, Chair of our Board of Trustees, who says: “KSS was founded by a woman, Kate Chivers, who cared so much about her community that she pioneered the development of its air ambulance service. Since then many women have stepped forward and played invaluable roles to contribute to making KSS the remarkable charity that it is today.
“They include some of our brilliant Paramedics and Doctors as well as some of our most inspiring fundraisers, with special mention of the wonderful Wendy Kane who is the focus of our current Spring Appeal. As Chair of the KSS Board it is a privilege to join this celebration and to thank all of those women who are contributing in many different ways to this life-saving charity.”
*Figure relates to number of active, financial supporters who’ve donated in the last two years, up to January 2021.