I hope John's legacy will be a lifesaving air ambulance, says partner of Dr Hinds
The partner of late road racing doctor John Hinds has said she hopes his legacy will be the provision of an emergency air ambulance for Northern Ireland.
Dr Janet Acheson made the comments while accepting a special posthumous award on his behalf for exceptional services to motorcycle racing.
John, known as one of the flying doctors of Irish road racing, was fatally injured last July as he provided medical cover at a Skerries 100 practice session in Co Dublin. While travelling behind riders on a practice lap, his bike crashed into a wall.
"There's nothing that's going to compensate me for John's loss," said Dr Acheson. "But John got an awful lot of fulfilment out of saving people's lives and limbs at road races."
John, a consultant anaesthetist at Craigavon Area Hospital, campaigned for a dedicated helicopter emergency medical service, and Dr Acheson said that he "struggled at times because doors were not being opened".
"If anything good comes out of John's death, hopefully it will be that there are lives saved," she added. "In some ways, this is much bigger than John. His death has brought this into the spotlight in a way I don't think it would have been otherwise. That's a positive I have to take."
The award, sponsored by Greenlight Television, will be announced at tomorrow night's Cornmarket Bike Awards - the Oscars of motorcycle racing.
It was handed over in advance as Dr Acheson will be attending the John Hinds Trauma Lecture by Dr Brian Burns from the Sydney Helicopter Emergency Medical Service at Belfast's Titanic Centre on the same day.
The presentation was made by Ballyclare road racer Jamie Hamilton, who was airlifted after a crash at the Manx TT last year and was one of the many racers who John helped.
"I had a personal coming together with John last year when I had a crash at Skerries," Jamie said. "He helped me and even the after-support he gave me following the crash meant a lot. As for the helicopter fund that John was dealing with, I had a helicopter at the TT last year. It saved me, and that's why it means a lot to me."
Dr Acheson told how the trophy would take "pride of place on our mantelpiece at home".
"My wish is that John was here to receive this, but I am proud and honoured to accept it on his behalf," she said. "John did love saving lives and limbs, and it gave him fulfilment in his medical career, but as an avid motorcycling fan he always said he had the best seat in the house. I'm sure the motorcycling fraternity will always be behind the medical team of the MCUI (the Motorcycle Union of Ireland). I think this award is as much theirs as it is John's."
Northern Ireland is the only region in the UK or Ireland without an emergency medial helicopter, though there are hopes one will be in place in time for this year's North West 200.
A public consultation on the viability of such a service has just finished. More than 65,000 signatures have been added to a petition in support of it. Cost of the service is £2.38m, with annual running costs of £1.8m.
In September Health Minister Simon Hamilton said he was committed to the idea.
"I believe the time is right to transform our trauma services, with the debate on the need for a helicopter emergency medical service providing the opportunity for this," said Mr Hamilton.
The minister said he hoped a "robust and recurrent charitable funding contribution" could be secured to help finance the service.