The Children’s Air Ambulance – the first and only dedicated neonatal and paediatric helicopter emergency transfer service in the country – has flown its 500th mission.
Formed in 2012 and operated by The Air Ambulance Service, it receives no government funding and relies totally on public donations to remain operational. Two helicopters fly out of bases in Oxford and Doncaster with the average cost of each mission £3,500.
The landmark 500th flight was to transfer a five-day-old baby and mother back to their local hospital in Doncaster from the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford – a journey that took 49 minutes by air compared with just under three hours by road.
Hours after she was born by emergency C-section at Doncaster Royal Infirmary, Kathleen was taken to Oxford by land ambulance for specialist cooling therapy.
Doctors were worried she might be brain damaged because of complications during the birth and Oxford was the nearest hospital – 147 miles away – available to undertake the hypothermia treatment.
Kathleen’s mother Claire Garner was well enough to join her daughter two days later and was with her on the helicopter for the Children’s Air Ambulance’s 500th flight to take them back to Doncaster.
Claire, of Bentley, Doncaster has come forward to thank the Children’s Air Ambulance for the part they played in getting them both back home quickly.
Being able to travel with her daughter meant so much to Claire after the trauma of them being separated at birth. She says:
“It was really important for me to be able to fly with Kathleen as I wasn’t able to be with her when she went to Oxford.
“I was so happy I could go back with her. I didn’t want her to go on her own again, even though I knew she was going to be safe. After being separated it was very important to me that we were together for the journey home.
“My baby was being constantly monitored and watched thousands of feet in the air, that’s quite a thing on its own. They made sure everything she needed was in place and she was alright. I was kept up to date and told how things were every time they checked her.
“When we were up in the sky on the way back to Doncaster, I knew that the majority of the worst was behind us and I had hope for the future.”
The Children’s Air Ambulance transfers patients and clinical partner teams between hospitals in England, Scotland and Wales.
The mission to fly Kathleen and Claire involved a specialist neo-natal team from Embrace – Yorkshire & Humber Infant & Children’s Transport Service (part of Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust) – based in Barnsley.
The helicopter took off from its base in Oxford, flew to pick up the Embrace team then back to the John Radcliffe Hospital to pick up mother and baby for the onward flight to Doncaster.
“We can’t thank the crew enough. Everyone was so helpful and made sure everything was OK for both of us. We were so lucky to have been transported by such a specialist team,” says Claire.
Thankfully, Kathleen suffered no long term damage from her traumatic birth on 18th December 2019 and is now a happy, healthy baby.
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