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HEMS 'Shout' by John Callan

1 February 2023

I was working with the HEMS (Helicopter Emergency Medical Service) that operates out of the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel when we received a call to attend a child with a serious head injury. Upon arrival the police and ambulance service were in attendance but handed over to the HEMS doctor due to the seriousness of the casualty, who was a five year old boy.

He had fallen at least three storeys onto a concrete patio and had started fitting when we arrived. After a very intensive period of work the doctor assessed that the child was stable enough to be stretchered to the helicopter and flown to the London Hospital. I have no idea if he survived; I just hope to God he did.

I have been a photographer working alongside the emergency services for 45 years - I started working with the London Fire Brigade when I was 12, going to Paddington Fire Station at the weekends, and I remember attending my first fatal fire in Grenfell Tower soon afterwards. I started working with London Ambulance and the Met when I was about 17. I did photograph other subjects for a while, especially live rock music, but I decided to spend my life within the secretive world of the emergency services.

John Callan has spent his photographic career on call and attended numerous road traffic accidents involving cars, lorries, trains and even cars driven into houses and shops, fires ranging from house to industrial, explosions to terrorism incidents such as the 1996 Docklands bombing. John's work is unique in that he is able to travel in the emergency vehicles to incidents and work alongside the rescue crews as they perform their duties. He has been on patrol with the British army and RUC in Northern Ireland, operated alongside helicopter air ambulance crews, and documented trauma and medical procedures in hospitals including surgery, day units, emergency rooms and midwifery. He has recently stepped back from active photography due to PTSD and depression from attending incidents over the years.

See more work by John Callan

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