Sitting in his living room, surrounded by cardboard boxes stuffed full of empty crisp packets, Andrew Bayliss admitted his latest endeavour is “quite something”.
The neuroanaesthetist’s home has become a warehouse for the used bags since July.
It’s become a remarkable phenomenon in the north and north-east with near-endless donations coming to his home in a leafy Aberdeen suburb from across the UK.
The cause: the soon-to-be Aberdeen-based air ambulance Helimed 79.
Having been packed up and boxed up, Dr Bayliss sends them off to Walkers in return for a donation to Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance.
In the past five months, around 1.5 tonnes of crisp packets have passed through the distribution line based in his garage.
Through the power of Facebook, the Crisps For Helimed 79 campaign has raised around £3,000.
That has already covered the average cost of SCAA sending its air ambulance out on a mission when it becomes operational in March.
Dr Bayliss said: “I never expected it to be anywhere near as successful as it has been.
“I thought we might raise about £500 by Christmas, then I might pack it up.
“But it’s been quite something.”
Dr Bayliss, who is part of a team of doctors based at Aberdeen airport ready to attend to the most seriously injured patients in the the north, reckons it was a case of having the right cause at the right time.
He added: “I suspect it just hit a note with the attitudes towards plastics at the moment.
“There are the two groups: those who want to fundraise for the charity and then there’s the others who want to recycle.
“It’s hitting a chord with both of them and we’re doing two good things at the same time.
“It’s just not throwing out your crisp packets – the bottom line is all we are doing is not putting them to landfill.”
Across the country, there are scores of collection points, a dozen people running large scale collections themselves and approaching 50 schools doing their bit for the cause.
Businesses, youth organisations and social groups have all rallied behind the effort to fund what will be SCAA’s second air ambulance.
Its first launched from Perth airport in 2013.
NHS Grampian has allowed its internal mail system to become part of the distribution line – transporting boxes of packets from all the hospitals, GP practices and pharmacies taking part to one central point.
The Scottish Ambulance Service is running an internal competition to encourage collections, with the staff hoarding the most in line to win a hamper.
The north-east’s police division has become involved too and is helping to run down boxes from Elgin, RAF Lossiemouth and the surrounding area.
It is getting to be such a big operation that Dr Bayliss is now looking to add his few volunteers in Dundee, Perth and Edinburgh.
“It’s running away with itself,” he said. “It is continuing to grow.”
“But it’s great press for SCAA. Everywhere collecting is paying attention as to why they are being asked to do it.”
Working in the emergency medicine retrieval team Scot Star North, based at the airport, he knows the effort is all going to be worth it.
He added: “We have a difficult geography in the north-east.
“It isn’t the worst here but we don’t have great roads.
“Travel times up to Peterhead, Fraserburgh, Banff are significant.
“The trauma team has been live for more than six months. We have gone to a number of fairly significant accidents in the north-east but the travel times can be up to an hour.
“The helicopter will be able to do it in 10 minutes.
“It will make such a difference to the quality of care that we can deliver rapidly to the road side, industrial accident or the farm wherever these things happen.”
With the extraordinary growth of the Crisps For Helimed 79 campaign, Dr Bayliss has admitted it is time to bring others into the fold as his house is “bulging at the seams”.
“When I speak about this I always say “we”,” he said.
“People seem to think there is a huge group behind this but at the sharp end it’s just me.
“There are a couple of volunteers packing a couple of boxes a week but the majority – around 200kg a week – comes through my garage.
“My wife is not the happiest with me but we are managing.”
The doctor – whose day job involves treating the most seriously hurt in accidents the north and north-east – is now looking to add to his network of helpers.
Around 70% of donations are coming from across Grampian, and the rest from across Scotland are being gathered by drivers from Aberdeen’s Arnold Clark Car and Van Hire.
Dr Bayliss warned: “People need to know what they are getting themselves into.
“It seems this will keep on growing at the moment and there doesn’t seem to be an end.
“More and more schools and businesses are getting in touch every week, which is great.
“But I’m starting to reach my limit and then some.
“I get my garage empty and then it fills right up again.”
Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance has made a huge impact since 2013, saving lives and preventing suffering.
That is why the P&J campaigned successfully for SCAA’s second helicopter to be based in our region.
The countdown is now on for the aircraft – call sign Helimed 79 – to start flying missions from Aberdeen Airport.
But this is an emergency service that relies entirely on donations.
Each call-out costs about £2,500 and SCAA needs P&J readers to help hit its £6million target and get things off to a successful start.
So please do anything you can to raise those funds and show that We’re Backing Helimed 79.
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