On Friday I had the privilege to meet the team behind The Children’s Air Ambulance (TCAA). You may not have heard of the service before but TCAA is one of a kind. It’s a brand new service that provides essential neonatal and paediatric hospital transfers for critically ill babies and children by helicopter. Alongside a clinical team, TCAA transfer poorly patients quickly and safely to specialist hospitals around England and Wales. Since its launch in December 2012, the service has completed over 55 transfers, helping babies, saving their lives and giving hope to those who under different circumstances may not have made it.
I was amazed to hear that in May 2013, the team took on board its first critically ill patient, one day old Baby Theo and flew him from Scarborough Hospital to Hull Royal Infirmary in just 15 minutes to receive lifesaving care. Since Theo’s transfer, TCAA has helped transport 32 babies to hospitals for urgent care. The free service relies entirely on voluntary donations so it’s hugely important that we raise awareness and essential funds to help the team continue their vital work.
(Photo courtesy of TCAA of Baby Theo being taken to the helicopter for his transfer)
I can’t even imagine what it must be like to have a critically ill newborn literally fighting for their life needing specialist care in a hospital some distance away from where they were born, with the knowledge that time is against them and could make a massive difference to their future survival and recovery. We may take it for granted but time is so very precious, it’s amazing that TCAA can reduce the time a fragile newborn has to wait to receive dedicated, expert care. TCAA can fly a patient from Leeds to London in less than an hour, a journey which would usually take more than three hours by road and would probably be a lot more uncomfortable.
We met Baby Freddie, a patient who used the service last October as a newborn, who was flown from Leeds General Infirmary to Chelsea and Westminster Hospital to receive critical care. He was deemed too fragile to endure the road journey and was flown in less than an hour to the specialist hospital. He is now a bouncy six month old who’s parents, Anna and her husband, are very grateful for The Children’s Air Ambulance.
We were shown around the helicopter by the team and heard all about the life saving medical equipment that has been installed on board.
We saw the tiny blue incubator pod that safely holds babies in place whilst they’re being transferred that allows for monitors, gases and medical equipment to be used at the same time.
It sounds silly but it really is like an ambulance in the air, it is quite amazing to know they can look after a baby in the air like that. I especially liked the graphic on the ceiling which shows a cartoon bird saying ‘Get Well Soon’ designed obviously for little ones to look up at and smile.
We also got the chance of a lifetime to hop inside the helicopter for a flight. I was so excited, if a little nervous but I didn’t need to be, it was absolutely brilliant. After a safety briefing from the Pilot, my fellow passengers (Helen and Zara) and I donned our headsets, strapped ourselves in and enjoyed a fifteen minute flight in the helicopter around the local area. As someone who has grown up going to military Airshows with my parents and watching in awe of the planes and helicopters, I was in my element as my helicopter selfie shows!
The flight was relatively smooth despite the winds and we were kept in contact with Paul, our Pilot throughout the flight. I felt incredibly safe and in very good hands which must be a huge comfort to parents of the patients that have flown in the air ambulance over the last year.
Back on the ground, we heard more from the team who told us more about the service and the transfers they have carried out and they were more than happy to answer all our questions. It’s astounding that such a lifesaving service receives no government funding but helps saves hundreds of young lives.
I also got to speak to Melanie Walcott, (wife of England and Arsenal footballer, Theo Walcott) who has become Patron of the service. Melanie told me how vital the service was and how she is working with TCAA to raise awareness and fundraise to keep the service in the skies. Watch out for her charity bike ride which she’ll be taking part in hopefully in early 2015.
It was an absolutely brilliant morning learning all about The Children’s Air Ambulance and taking a flight in the helicopter, talking to the team and the pilots. Luckily for me, the flight was for pleasure and not for a lifesaving transfer but who knows, when they may need their invaluable help one day.
A big thank you to TCAA for inviting me along to find out more about the charity. I hope to work with them closely over the next few months to raise awareness and raise funds for their brilliant lifesaving service.