A RENFREWSHIRE man is enjoying a starring role in a new TV series which shows how the actions of a crack team of helicopter medics can make the difference between life and death.

As a member of the Emergency Medical Retrieval Service (EMRS), Darren Black, who lives in Howwood, is used to responding to extreme situations.

Tense hillside rescues and surgery in the field – literally – are all part of the job.

Now millions of television viewers are getting a taste of the action by tuning into Rescue: Extreme Medics on Channel 4.

The first episode in the five-part series was broadcast on Monday night and followed the EMRS team as it raced to help a pylon engineer trapped under a quad bike in the remote hills of Skye.

Euan Lindsay had been slipping in and out of consciousness and believed he had lost an arm in the accident but managed to dig a hole around his pocket to retrieve his mobile phone and call 999.

The cameras followed the case from the moment the information was received by staff at an ambulance control centre.

After being deployed by helicopter from their base at Glasgow Airport, the quick-thinking EMRS heroes could be seen turning the remote hillside into a trauma ward.

The show also features a case involving a cyclist who collided head on with a digger bucket, suffering a severe neck injury, as well as the plight of a 17-year-old tree surgeon who had an accident involving a chainsaw at work.

Darren, who has served with the EMRS for five years and been part of the helicopter team for 18 months, said: “It’s a great job, I’m very lucky.

“We could be sent anywhere – north, south, east, west, in the hills, on the islands, in any weather. The unpredictability of the job is what makes it exciting.

“Most of the time we are sitting like coiled springs, waiting for the call to come in.”

The EMRS team of paramedics, consultants and first responders cover 30,000 square miles and 90 islands, looking after some of the most remote communities in Europe.

The Gazette: Dr Niall McMahon (left) and Darren Black feature in a new Channel 4 seriesDr Niall McMahon (left) and Darren Black feature in a new Channel 4 series

Darren, who grew up in Lockerbie, added: “I joined the ambulance service well aware of the challenges those areas face, when you’re quite isolated and 30, 40 miles from the nearest trauma centre.”

The new series also features Dr Niall McMahon, who divides his time between EMRS duties and those in the emergency department at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, in Paisley, where he works as a consultant.

He said the scenes witnessed in the opening episode are “relatively tame stuff.”

“There was a lot they couldn’t show,” he added. “Hopefully the programme will raise awareness about what the entire system is set up to do.

“In a hospital, you have all kinds of back-up. In a field or at the roadside, if anything unexpected happens, it’s up to the team to deal with it.

“In our kit, we carry everything we need to keep a critically-ill or injured patient alive – drugs, anaesthetic equipment, blood.

“If we need to do open heart surgery at the roadside, we can do it.”

A few months ago, Niall found himself having to do exactly that.

“We were called to a stabbing victim on a Glasgow street,” he explained.

“We had to open his chest, as it was his only chance.

“The kinds of things we do at the roadside now would have been unthinkable even a few years ago.

“I’m really proud to be part of it.”

Niall, who studied medicine at Glasgow University, said cases involving children are often the most emotive for everyone involved.

The Gazette: Howwood man Darren Black is a paramedic and specialist retrieval practitionerHowwood man Darren Black is a paramedic and specialist retrieval practitioner

“I have an 18-month-old daughter, Orla, and I know if I was to turn up at a scene involving a girl the same age, it would be a mental hurdle but we have a lot of systems and training in place to deal with that,” he added.

“I remember we got a call to a young girl who had been knocked down by a car as she came off the school bus in a rural village. She had very severe injuries.

“Her parents were there, watching it all unfold, and we have to tell them we’re anaesthetising their child, taking control of her breathing and taking her away in a helicopter.

“They know it’s the right thing but it’s hard for them.

“That’s when all the training comes in, and things click into place.”

In that case, the young girl suffered a significant brain injury and broken bones but survived.

“She’s back at school now,” said Niall. “That’s when you realise every part of the system is of value – a badly injured person, far from help, gets what they need.”

Niall has performed various roles since leaving university but being part of the EMRS team is a real highlight.

He said: “After graduating, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to specialise in.

“I worked in Melbourne for a while and got interested in emergency medicine.

“I knew a bit about the EMRS and joined in 2007.

“It was very different then – everyone was a volunteer and there was no pre-hospital care element but I enjoyed it and, when I became a consultant, a slot came up and I have been there ever since.”

Rescue: Extreme Medics can be seen on Channel 4 on Mondays, starting at 9pm, and on All 4.