CHRIS Locke was fit and healthy when, out of the blue, he suffered a life-threatening emergency and Wiltshire Air Ambulance came to his aid.

The retired project manager was at home in Hilperton, Trowbridge, on a Saturday morning in October 2013 working on his computer when he felt unwell but he couldn’t explain why.

Chris, 65, said: “All I wanted was a quiet lie down, but my wife, Maralyn, said she ‘didn’t like the look of me’ and phoned 999.”

Within minutes a land ambulance crew arrived and moved Chris into the ambulance outside to start tests to determine what was wrong with him. They suspected that he had suffered a dissected aorta – a rare condition caused by a tear in the inner layer of the main artery from the heart. They knew that if it was this, time was critical so called for Wiltshire Air Ambulance and the helicopter landed in the fields close by.

Air ambulance paramedic Jo Munday elected to fly Chris to the Bristol Royal Infirmary, so he could receive immediate heart surgery from a specialist team. The flight took 15 minutes and Chris was taken straight to theatre where the surgeons replaced his aortic arch with a plastic manifold during a complex operation that lasted some 16 hours.

Chris was discharged after 15 days and remains healthy and well.

Chris’s daughter, Joanna Sargent who lives in Brinkworth, had raised money for WAA before her stepdad needed its services, and has carried on fundraising, including a sponsored skydive.

Chris and Maralyn have joined Wiltshire Air Ambulance’s Friends scheme and also play the charity’s lottery. Chris also made a donation that was doubled by the Big Give Christmas Challenge in December 2016 for the charity’s Flight Room at the new airbase at Semington.

Chris said: “It was a team effort that saved my life. If I had gone by road ambulance to hospital rather than in the air ambulance the journey would have taken about an hour, meaning the outcome for me would have been pretty grim.

“If we lost Wiltshire Air Ambulance I’m not sure how the gap would be filled. It’s just not an option. We all need Wiltshire Air Ambulance – we have to keep it flying and that’s down to us, the public, making donations.”