Published: 04 January 2024

A Neath woman is encouraging people to take part in a virtual fitness fundraiser this month to help support the Charity that came to her brother’s aid after he suffered a fatal heart attack. 

Laura Jones, of London Road, Neath, was inspired to take on the Wales Air Ambulance’s annual fundraiser ‘Air Miles’ last January, just a few months after her older brother Gary was taken ill suddenly at home. 

Medics on board the Wales Air Ambulance attended Gary at his Bryncoch home but sadly, despite their best efforts, he could not be saved. 

Laura, 56, said: “On 12 October, 2022, sadly, my older brother Gary suffered a sudden, unexpected heart attack and passed away. He was only 67, and fit and well so his death was a huge shock to us all. 

“After his morning shower, Gary went into his bedroom and laid on his bed. When my sister-in-law went upstairs, he appeared to have passed away. She immediately phoned 999 and was talked through how to give him CPR. Within a very short time, the medics arrived and took over and when she heard the air ambulance arriving, she became hopeful that they might actually be able to revive him. In spite of all their best efforts and tireless work, he could not be saved.

“My sister-in-law was full of praise for all the medics involved and for all the air ambulance staff in particular who were so kind and who provided aftercare for the family. We chose donations in memory of my brother to the Wales Air Ambulance and were surprised to learn that the service relies entirely on donations to operate its vehicles.”

In gratitude to the Wales Air Ambulance and in her brother’s memory, Laura decided to register for the Charity’s My Air Miles virtual challenge.

The fundraiser gives participants an opportunity to run, jog or walk 25, 50 or 100 miles throughout January. It is the perfect chance to get healthier, set a personal challenge and is an ideal motivator to kickstart new goals throughout the year. 

Entrants can join forces with family and friends to get the miles in and workplaces and organisations and schools are also encouraged to take part. Any school that registers will be sent a Del Dragon mascot soft toy to help power through the miles. Entry for ‘My Air Miles’ is free, and if participants raise £100 for the Wales Air Ambulance they will receive a ‘My Air Miles’ medal.

Laura said: “I took part last year after it came up on my Facebook page on New Year’s Eve. It was the first Christmas without my brother and I felt I wanted to start the New Year off doing something in his memory rather than sit at home. 

“I set myself a target and it gave me something positive to focus on. It felt good knowing I was doing something to help raise money for the Wales Air Ambulance that were so good to him and were a great support to our family afterwards.

“I run 40 miles throughout the month and raised £1,295 in all weather. It gave me some time on my own to grieve and think about him and I always ensured I ran past the Chapel of Rest to keep me going. I would encourage people to take part as it is good to set yourself a challenge for the New Year and also help raise money for such an amazing cause. As I always tell people, you never know when you or a member of your family may need the Wales Air Ambulance.”

Following on from the My Air Miles Challenge, Laura was encouraged to keep fundraising and on 7 October 2023, she climbed to the summit of Pen y Fan, to mark a year of her brother’s passing. She raised £355 and said she will continue to keep fundraising for the Charity. 

She said: “The Charity is very close to my heart and I will never forget the care the Wales Air Ambulance provided. Throw your trainers on and do something fun to start 2024.”

The Wales Air Ambulance 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 early recovery. 

This advanced critical care includes the ability to administer anaesthesia, deliver blood transfusions and conduct minor operations, all at the scene of an incident. The Service is often described as a ‘flying emergency department’, however, it can also deliver the same standard of care by road via its fleet of rapid response vehicles.

This 24/7 service is delivered via a unique Third Sector and Public Sector partnership. The Wales Air Ambulance Charity relies on public donations to raise the £11.2 million required every year to keep the helicopters in the air and rapid response vehicles on the road. 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.  

As a pan-Wales service, the dedicated crews will travel the length and breadth of the country to deliver emergency lifesaving care.
Tracey Breese, Wales Air Ambulance’s events and partnership fundraiser, said: “My Air Miles is a wonderful way to start the New Year. At this time of year people set themselves New Year’s resolutions, so why not set yourself a challenge to raise funds for the Wales Air Ambulance? 

“You can pick how many miles you’d like to do and also whether you run, walk, jog or even do a combination. By taking part you can help us to continue to save lives throughout Wales.” 

If you’d like to take part as a group, please email the Charity’s events team at [email protected] and let them know how many of you plan to take part. 

If you like to help us continue to save lives across our country this year, you can sign up to the challenge via My Air Miles 2024 Facebook group here and complete a registration form.