The first baby to be transported in the Wales Air Ambulance (WAA) Charity’s new fourth aircraft has been flown home with the help of the neonatal team at Glan Clwyd Hospital.
Baby Noah Griffiths, from Carmarthen, was born thirteen weeks prematurely at the unit in Bodelwyddan, but as soon as he was deemed well enough to make the long journey home, medics were faced with the prospect of sending him on a four-hour trip by road.
Noah, and the team charged with taking care of him on the way, were spared the winding trek back to Glangwili Hospital in south west Wales thanks to a new dedicated aircraft introduced by the WAA Charity.
Accompanying him during the aircraft’s maiden voyage were Emergency Medical Retrieval and Transfer Service (EMRTS Cymru) medic Jason Hughes, Glan Clwyd Neonatal Consultant Dr Tarek El-Aalem and Advanced Neonatal Nurse Practitioner, Rhian Smith.
Tarek said: “Noah was expected to need intensive care at the time of delivery. It was decided by the Wales Neonatal Network, a pan-Wales network with shared expertise across Wales, that the appropriate hospital for this specialist case was at Glan Clwyd. After birth Noah needed intensive care and once his clinical condition improved and stabilized, he was transferred back closer to home.”
Rhian added: “It was a great honour to be a part of the first transfer in the new aircraft. We had training with the Wales Air Ambulance and EMRTS Cymru team the week before to familiarise ourselves with the equipment. It was a bit nerve-wracking, but on the way down I had Noah to focus on. On the way home though, I could appreciate from the air just how amazingly beautiful Wales is.
“It was just really nice to be able to get Noah home and back with his own support network.”
Noah’s parents were waiting patiently for him to touch down at Glangwili Hospital in Carmarthen. His mum Shaylynn says she is thankful to all the team at Glan Clwyd Hospital and the Wales Air Ambulance Charity for their support throughout:
“The staff up there were really nice. They made you comfortable and they were really good with Noah. We also had accommodation so we could stay with Noah for the full four weeks he was there. It was a bit scary but they looked after him really well, and ever since then he’s been fine. They did a really good job with him.”
Noah’s condition continues to improve.
Noah’s journey signalled the launch of the WAA’s fourth aircraft as a dedicated service for neonatal and paediatric transfers in Wales. The North Wales Neonatal Transfer Service, Wales and West Acute Transport for Children (WATCh) service and the Cymru-Inter-Hospital Acute Neonatal Transport Service (CHANTS) will work closely with the WAA Charity and EMRTS Cymru on the pilot operation, which will initially run for six months.
It was also the first time that a Welsh Government/NHS Wales-funded £70,000 bespoke incubator was used. Made in Switzerland, the incubator was designed with input from expert Welsh nursing staff, including Claire Richards from CHANTS and medics from EMRTS Cymru. It is the most advanced flight incubator in the UK and its introduction to the Wales Air Ambulance Charity helicopters will replace long road journeys for vulnerable babies.
The new incubators are the latest development in WAA’s paediatric operation. The charity runs the National Children’s Air Ambulance of Wales, as well as responding to 999 emergencies from its other three bases across the country.
WAA Charity Chief executive Angela Hughes said:
“Because of its geography, Wales has one of the busiest air ambulances in the UK. We aim to be at the forefront in adopting latest technology to increase the cover we provide.
“We are a charity that does not get government funding and is not eligible for lottery funding. It is thanks to the generosity of the people of Wales who continue to make donations that we can keep the helicopters flying.”
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