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James Bannister’s left arm had to be amputated but he believes that the speed with which the helicopter got him to hospital, gave him the best outcome.

It was 6 August 1998 and James had gone to work as normal, harvesting a crop of potatoes on the farm where he worked near Retford Notts. He recalls the incident and said: “I had just finished a field and was talking to the trailer driver after cleaning the harvester out, next thing I remember is actually fighting against the harvester. I cannot remember climbing onto the harvester and I have no recollection as to why I did so, but I did and somehow my arm got caught on the machine’s rollers and powerless to stop, I was pulled further in. My trailer man heard my screams and ran to the cab to turn the tractor off by which time I was in the machine up to my shoulder”.

James vividly remembers those early moments. “I was up to my neck in the roller, luckily my mate stopped the machine and came up to me asking what to do? I said get the big bar on the shaft and wind the harvester backwards, but as he released the pressure my arm started to bleed heavily as if someone was tipping a jug of water on to the ground. The trailer man then raised the alarm and the farm manager and other staff, Lincs & Notts Air Ambulance and the other emergency services soon arrived.”

The professional’s battled to free him for two and a half hours. The LNAA team gave James pain relief and the doctor remained by his side the whole time, ready to amputate his arm if necessary.

Finally, James was released and carried to the air ambulance. He said: “I had no feeling in my left arm and was asked to hold onto it with my right hand to keep it from moving when placed on the stretcher. When I looked at it, I knew it couldn’t be saved, as, it kept falling off the side of the stretcher. To this day I can still feel my arm in the tucked position that I held it in when travelling to the hospital in the air ambulance.”

It took just nine minutes to fly James to Sheffield Northern General Hospital, a journey that would have taken at least an hour by road. Surgeons could not save his arm, and James signed his own consent form to operate and have it removed. Yet James was determined not to let his injury hold him back.

He was desperate to return to work and so when his employer told him, 6 months, later, he was no longer needed, James hit rock bottom. It took time for him to turn his life around but eventually James set up his first contracting business in 2002. Changes in his personal life impacted on his business, and he took a 2-year break from 2007-2009, working in the farming industry in New Zealand. On his return he met his partner, Lorraine and within a year they had set up JLR Farm Services, specialising at that time in crop spraying.

James has proven he can still do most of the work he did before the accident and drives his tractors with a ball on the steering wheel to allow him to steer one-handed.

He said: “The air ambulance is an invaluable service. The quick delivery to hospital saved my life. Nothing else compares to what they do.”

Today, James is Chairman of the NAAC for agricultural contractors and an ambassador for farm safety via the Yellow Wellies farm safety campaign. He regularly gives talks on farm safety, to companies throughout the UK. “People are still having accidents with farm machinery. We are all aware of safety, but my accident shows how in a split second your life can change forever,” he said.

“Life is precious. I miss my arm. Occasionally, when I am doing things, I still try and use my left arm, but it is never going to be there again.”