Published: 08 May 2024

A former Wales women’s football player has thanked the Wales Air Ambulance for saving her life 17 months ago.

Elen King’s life was saved after she was found unresponsive at her home in Tanygrisiau, Gwynedd, on Boxing Day 2022.

Elen, who developed anorexia at the age of 20, had suffered a cardiac arrest and was hypothermic. She also tested positive for Covid.

The former physiotherapist received treatment from the Welsh Ambulance Service before the arrival of the Wales Air Ambulance.

The air ambulance service in Wales is consultant-led, taking hospital-standard treatments to the patient and if required, transferring them directly to the most appropriate hospital for their illness or injury. For the patient, this can mean hours saved when compared to standard care and is proven to greatly improve survival and recovery.

It is delivered via a unique Third Sector and Public Sector partnership. The Emergency Medical Retrieval and Transfer Service (EMRTS) supplies highly skilled NHS consultants and critical care practitioners who work on board the charity’s vehicles.

Elen was intubated by the critical care team before being placed onto a ventilator and was given a continuous infusion of adrenaline.

The treatments Elen received would usually only be available within a hospital setting, but thanks to the advanced clinicians on board Wales Air Ambulance, she received lifesaving interventions at home.

Once stable, Elen was escorted by the air ambulance crew to Ysbyty Gwynedd via a road ambulance.

Following Elen’s cardiac arrest, she spent four months on the intensive and high dependency care units on a ventilator and dialysis, where she lost all physical function. In June 2023, after months of diligent care and support, Elen was well enough to be discharged home.

Elen, said: “Without the rapid expert care and transfer to hospital by the Wales Air Ambulance, I truly believe I would not be here to tell my story.  Not only did they save my life, but they also took the time to support, explain and reassure my parents during what was a very traumatic event for them.

“As a former physiotherapist, never did I think I would find myself on the opposite side of care.”   

Prior to her illness Elen was a keen sportswoman, who had represented Wales playing football. However, this diminished due to her illness. Elen later found a love for arts and crafts, as a way to ‘channel her mind and expel’ what energy she had.

Elen turned her newfound love into a way she could say thank you to the medics that helped save her life.

Elen continued: “Whilst I still battle with my anorexia, the team that helped me that day have given me a second chance. I can never thank them enough for all they did for me and my family that day or will there ever be the words to express my gratitude.

“But, by supporting the Charity I feel like I am able to go some way in expressing it, whilst at the same time, giving me a focus which helps immeasurably with my anorexia. I have made it my mission to raise money to support the Wales Air Ambulance.

“As my function gradually improved, I was able to return to my art and craft work.  Although, not as able as I was, I found that by doing it has helped with my rehab and I am constantly seeing improvements.  It was then I had the idea of combining my passion for crafting and my wish to support the air ambulance.”

Since being discharged from hospital Elen has raised a fantastic £1,200 for the Wales Air Ambulance, by selling cards, prints, free embroidery art and Christmas decorations. She also made an ‘army’ of Welsh ladies which went on sale on St David’s Day – the Wales Air Ambulance’s birthday.

She added: “This, along with astonishing support of local people, I have raised £1,200 to date.  I hope that this is just the beginning.” 

Elen has also arranged a book launch event with author Clare Mackinosh, which also raised further funds for the cause. 

Alwyn Jones Wales Air Ambulance’s Regional Fundraising Manager was delighted to meet Elen during a recent base visit.

He said: “It’s always touching when we hear from those who have needed the help of the Wales Air Ambulance. Elen is a very positive lady and her creations in aid of the charity are beautiful. She should be immensely proud of where she is today. The funds will help us to continue to be there for people in Wales, like Elen, 24/7. Thank you to everyone who has supported Elen with her fundraiser.”