As families across Suffolk came together in a gift-giving, turkey-eating frenzy, spare a thought for those whose jobs kept them from their loves ones.
Dr Jeremy Mauger is one of many healthcare professionals who had to work through the holidays.
He flew with the East Anglian Air Ambulance (EAAA) on Christmas Day and was expected back on the intensive therapy unit (ITU) at West Suffolk Hospital, as a consultant in anaesthesia, on Boxing Day – making for a very different Christmas for Jeremy and his family.
His commitments meant the festivities started early in his house, before he left for his shift with the EAAA on Christmas Day afternoon.
Everything else had to be postponed until the following week – except turkey sandwiches, which Jeremy hoped to sneak with him on to some shifts.
Of the disruption caused to his wife and children, the father-of-three said: “They’ve grown up in the knowledge that any second I’ll have to drop everything and run out the door.
“It’s always been part of our lives – we’ve just grown up with it, not really knowing anything sensible.
“I’ve promised I’ll do something spectacular next year for Christmas.
“It’s such a vocation – you’ve got to have a lot of dedication and be slightly mad to help people at all hours of the day and night,” added the 47-year-old, who also volunteers with the Suffolk Accident Rescue Service.
Given his level of passion and dedication, it is hard to imagine him not always wanting to have been a doctor, which he qualified as in 2001.
He said: “I was going to be a physician – my dad’s a physician – but I really enjoyed helping people and making a difference and in this job, particularly when you get to meet patients, both on the aircraft and coming back to visit on the ITU, it’s hugely rewarding.”
Jeremy decided to study medicine after joining St John Ambulance as a cadet and was recently made a Member in the Order of St John (the Venerable Order of Hospital of St John of Jerusalem) owing to his long commitment to the charity working as county medical officer for Suffolk.
He is also the national honorary secretary for the British Association for Immediate Care and has worked with the EAAA – a 365 day-a-year lifesaving service which operates across four counties – for more than 12 years.
He said: “There are moments when it’s awful but flying over East Anglia is spectacular and it’s a great, great job at times.
“There’s lots of team work; working both with the air crew and the local land crew emergency services.”
The service, which launched in 2000, currently flies two EC135 T2 helicopters which, between them, can reach a patient anywhere in Norfolk, Suffolk, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire within 25 minutes.
Jeremy has been impressed by the “significant change” the service has undergone in the last 12 months, which has included taking delivery of a fully night-capable EC135 T2e aircraft, making the EAAA the first UK air ambulance to be able to carry out missions after dark.
On the technical front, the EAAA is also expanding its capability and will soon be getting a new helicopter – the EC145 – which will be able to carry more patients and equipment – another first for air ambulance services in the UK.
To give an idea of what that means, the EC145 can carry two pilots, three helicopter emergency medical service crew and a patient, while carrying enough fuel to fly for more than two hours, with a range of nearly 300 nautical miles.
In contrast, the EC135 can carry one pilot, two crew and a patient for 90 minutes with a range of 186 nautical miles.
This advancement is one that Jeremy is “very excited” about, while he is also keen to develop the clinical reach of the charity.
With a particular interest in the outcomes of cardiac arrest, and a resulting passion for training the public in CPR, he hopes to advance the charity’s clinical ability and equipment, and help bring CPR training to the region’s schools.
Jeremy said: “Out-of-hospital cardiac arrest outcomes are improving in countries that encourage members of the public to do early CPR and we should encourage this.
“I would really like to see CPR taught in all schools as part of the national curriculum.
“Sustained and good quality CPR, plus early defibrillation, make a real difference to cardiac arrest patients.
“Once compressions have been established, EAAA medics can work together with ambulance crews to use their advanced equipment and training to give the patient the best chance of survival.”
Cardiac arrest outside of hospital is experienced by about 60,000 people a year in the UK, with fewer than 10 per cent surviving to discharge from hospital.
The EAAA attended 289 cardiac arrest patients from January to August this year, making up about a quarter of all missions attended.
The charity receives no direct Government funding and needs £7.6 million every year to maintain the service, which covers its operating costs, fuel, all medical equipment and the staff on board.