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A Bristow helicopter winchman, based at Stornoway’s HM Coastguard Search and Rescue (SAR) base, has been named the emergency services hero of 2024 by St Andrew’s First Aid.

Norman ‘Nam’ Macleod was handed the honour on Friday 29 March at a gala night for Scottish first aid heroes in Glasgow.

The award is given annually to an individual or team who works for one of Scotland's emergency services and who has saved a life through the delivery of first aid in a high-pressure situation.

Paramedic Nam was shortlisted for his role in a demanding rescue at sea, in the early hours of 29 November 2023.

On that day HM Coastguard’s Stornoway SAR team received an urgent tasking to the Spanish fishing vessel Lodairo, where two men had been involved in an accident with the ship's winching gear.

Their injuries included amputated and seriously injured legs, with one man still trapped in the mechanism, and the vessel itself a long way from land – 120 nautical miles northwest of Lewis.

Nam said: “The situation sounded extremely serious. The first thing we did was work with the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre to move a specialist team from Glasgow, almost 300 miles to Stornoway. We knew we would need them on-hand to help as soon as we arrived back at base.”

Coastguard helicopter R948 took around an hour to reach the casualties’ vessel where, Nam said, they faced ‘a tricky situation.’

He said: "The weather was rough and the ship was pitching in heavy seas. The team did a great job in getting me down to the deck safely."

On deck, the scene was desperate and confusing, one man having lost a leg, with his other leg seriously injured.

The other casualty, although no longer trapped in the winching mechanism, had lost the lower part of one of his legs entirely. Both men were in a life-threatening state and needed urgent care.

To add to the confusion, their colleagues were all distressed, spoke no English and their cluttered deck was pitching up and down in the swell.

Nam said: "I've been a paramedic for almost 30 years and this was the most challenging scene I've ever had to deal with. For the first few seconds it was hard to take everything in and understand what I needed to do first.

"Thankfully it didn't last. My training and experience kicked in and I got to work. I spent an hour on the boat and it was the quickest hour of my life."

Nam's first job was to prioritise the casualties, and his attention immediately went to the man who had lost an entire leg. He set about stopping the bleeding with everything available to him, including dressings and haemostatic agents.

With help from the team on the aircraft the first casualty was winched on board and Nam returned to the vessel itself, next applying a combat application tourniquet to stop the bleeding in the second casualty’s amputated leg.

Nam’s nominator told St Andrew’s judges: “Norman was organised and the safe recovery of the second patient was completed in minutes.

“His total time on the vessel was no more than one hour which involved organising the crew, triaging, treating and packaging the casualties and safely recovering both back to the aircraft.

“During the return flight to Stornoway, where senior critical care teams had now arrived, both the paramedic and the medical technician (winch operator) continued the assessment, treatment and monitoring of the patients until landing at Western Isles Hospital at first light.

“For his sound clinical decision-making under extreme pressure, exceptional scene management in hazardous conditions, impressive physical endurance, and the clinical care provided, Norman 'Nam' MacLeod is recommended for the 'Emergency Service Hero award'.

“There is no doubt in my mind that the survival of both patients, in the face of their injuries, was a direct result of Norman's experience, technical skills, and calmness in the face of a complex set of circumstances.”

Nam is shown (centre) with Stornoway paramedic colleagues Martin Macleod and Chris Adams at the St Andrew’s awards ceremony in Glasgow (St Andrew’s) and in his natural setting up a Harris mountain with his hero’s award.