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Prince William recalls traumatic experience rescuing young boy as air ambulance pilot: 'Inside, I felt something change'

"I went home that night pretty upset," Prince William recalled about a difficult day during his career as a helicopter ambulance pilot.
/ Source: TODAY

Prince William is opening up about a traumatic experience he had while working as an air ambulance pilot.

The royal has always been an advocate for taking care of your mental health, and he just teamed up with Apple Fitness to take part in a new podcast series that encourages listeners to take a walk and be more in tune with their physical and mental health.

During the episode, the 39-year-old takes a walk as he recalls his time working with the East Anglian Air Ambulance. The prince started working with the service in 2015 and was involved with all aspects of the job as a pilot, including medical operations. It was a difficult job at times, but the father of three explained that you had to control your emotions in order to work as quickly as possible.

"Seeing patients and families ripped apart on almost a daily basis, that routine, you just get into a habit of head down and get on with it," he said.

William then went on to recall one particular job that has stayed with him all these years later.

"I still remember the crew who were on, great mates of mine. We had a paramedic and a doctor on and another pilot flying with me. And the call we get is very brief, not very detailed. So we were kind of expecting a sort of minor injury case," he said.

But when they arrived on the scene, the crew saw that a young person was in pretty rough shape and had been hit by a car.

"And of course there's some things in life you don't really want to see. And all we cared about at the time was fixing this boy. And the parents are very hysterical, as you can imagine, screaming, wailing, not knowing what to do, you know, and in, in real agony themselves. And that lives with you," William explained.

The team got to work, stabilized the boy and flew him to a local hospital to get him the additional care he needed. But the experience would affect William later on when he was done with his shift.

"I went home that night pretty upset but not noticeably. I wasn't in tears, but inside, I felt something had changed. I felt a sort of... a real tension inside of me," he said. "And then, the next day, going back in again to work, you know, different crew. On to the next job. And that's the thing, you're not always all together. So then you can't spend a day processing it."

Prince William worked as a pilot for the East Anglian Air Ambulance.John Stillwell / AFP via Getty Images

As a result, William said, he felt somewhat hesitant to talk about the encounter with these other coworkers the next day.

"You have a reluctance to talk about it because you don't want to hold each other up. You, you don't want to, you know, burden other people. You also don't want to think, 'Oh, is it just me? Am I the only one who's really affected by that?'" he said.

The experience really hit the prince weeks later and he said it felt like someone had "put a key in a lock and opened it without me giving permission to do that."

"I felt like the whole world was dying. It's an extraordinary feeling. You just feel everyone's in pain, everyone's suffering. And that's not me. I've never felt that before," he recalled.

One particular medical call the prince worked on during his time working for the service has stuck with him.Stefan Rousseau / Getty Images

William felt a bit taken aback since his personal life was going quite well at the time so he couldn't understand why this experience had hit him so hard.

"I was happy at home and happy at work, but I kept looking at myself, going, 'Why am I feeling like this? Why do I feel so sad?' And I started to realize that, actually, 'You're taking home people's trauma, people's sadness, and it's affecting you,'” he said.

"But I can't explain why I had that realization what was going on because a lot of people don't have that realization. And that is where you can slip unnoticed into the next problem. I think, until you've been through it, it's hard to... hard to understand," he continued.

Eventually, William began talking to someone at work and he said it helped him process his feelings. Toward the end of his podcast, the prince encouraged listeners to seek help for any mental health issues they might be facing and explained that it's a universal experience.

"And you're not alone, and it's okay. It's about what you do next. It's about having that boldness and that openness and that strength to go, 'It's going to be a long journey. It's not going to be easy, but I'm going to get there,'" he said.