The Children’s Air Ambulance


What is yellow and green and could save your newborn’s life?

The Children’s Air Ambulance.
Not much of a punchline, I know. The sentiment is however true. 
They have completed 58 patient and clinical team transfers since the team took to the skies in December 2012. 

Case 1

Their very first transfer saw the team taking a tiny 4lb 14oz Theo Mikova from Scarborough to Hull. Doctors soon realised that all was not right and Theo needed immediate attention, he was taken by helicopter to Hull for emergency surgery. Theo’s oesophagus hadn’t joined correctly with his stomach – this could have caused major complications. 
This journey took only 15 minutes, achievable by the Agusta Grand 109S’s capability to hit 200mph. 
The same journey by road would take at least an hour. With unforgiving traffic and the speed limitations, these longer journeys can be life threatening and stressful for the patient, parents and the team involved. 

Case 2

Freddie arrived 7 weeks early, tiny and healthy but he had yet to develop the sucking reflex he needed to be able to eat. His parents had made a trip to Leeds for friends wedding and the surprise birth meant they were miles from their home in London. 
 It was agreed that Freddie could head home to Chelsea and continue his treatment at Westminster Hospital, however they were unsure of how such a tiny baby would cope on a 5 hour ambulance journey. Premature babies can go down hill very quickly and making the transfer from one hospital to another must be handle both carefully and swiftly. 
TCAA steps in along side Embrace Yorkshire and Humber Infant and Children’s Transport Service. With the ability to move 4 times faster than a standard ambulance it’s a no brainer when it come to speed and safety. The helicopter made the journey from Leeds to London in just one hour.
On this occasion, if the TCAA hadn’t been available, Freddie and his parents would have been stranded far from home, family and friends for up to 5 weeks. 

Case 3

Isaac had Acute Meconium Aspiration. Simply put – he had been ingesting meconium for up to two days while his mum was in labour. He was born with damage to his lung tissue and severe respiratory distress. Meconium Aspiration occurs in approximately 10-15% of births in the UK and causes blockages in babies’ tiny airways.  It was decided that Isaac needed to travel for immediate specialist treatment at Bristol Royal infirmary. The parents were told to prepare for the worse as he may not make the journey. 
He did. He was put on a ventilator to try to clear his lungs. Unfortunately, the ventilator wasn’t as effective as they’d hope. Consultants and Bristol deicded to call in the EMCO team from Leicester Glenfield Hospital.
” EMCO stands for Extra Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation and is a machine that provides respiratory support to patients whose heart and/or lungs are so severely diseased or damaged that they can no longer function properly. The ECMO machine artificially pumps blood and oxygen around the body. Leicester Glenfield Hospital is one of only three hospitals in the UK to provide the ECMO machine to babies. “
A team of clinicians arrived that evening from Leicester with the mobile ECMO machine and Isaac was transferred at 11pm that same evening. 
After two nights on the EMCO machine, the little fighter was allowed to go back to his local hospital to continue his treatment. 
The TCAA was on call to get Isaac back to Taunton in just 59 minutes – while his parents trailed behind on a 5 hour car journey. 

What makes this helicopter so special?

  • The Children’s Air Ambulance is a Charity which offers a free helicopter transfer service to critically ill babies, and their care teams. 
  • No other Air Ambulance in the country is fitted with this state-of-the-art specialist paediatric equipment such as stretchers and intensive care monitoring equipment.
  • ‘Baby – pod’ – This special life support system; designed for babies,  comprises of medical glass, and essential monitoring equipment
  • The speed dramatically cuts transfer times between local hospitals and specialist paediatric centres
  • It is the only one of it’s kind.
Yep, TCAA is a unicorn. One that solely runs on the donations from the public. The Charity receives no NHS or Government funding for TCAA and it costs approximately £134,000 per month to keep the helicopter flying. 
Bottom left/right & middle right: Baby Pod


They gave me a chance to go in the helicopter and get some brilliant information from Andy Williamson (CEO), Melanie Slade (patron), Paul Hogan (hilarious pilot), Dan Martin (excellent pilot, potentially not a good driver) and a few other staff and crew members. All very friendly and have such incredible passion for TCAA. 
Right to left Momma Mojo, Two Monsters and Me , Hogan the Hilarious & Mrs Shilts.
I took Tiny with me on the day. While I was holding her I couldn’t help but think: What if that had been me?
We all know that anything could happen at any time. But really, standing in the room, looking at the maps filled with pins that the team have painstakingly plotted out, hearing how they can get from one end of the country to another in 2 hours, how they can take staff WITH the baby or child that is travelling, looking at how tiny the baby pod really is was incredibly sobering. 
Right: Map with pins for helipads, teams, heli-petrol stations, routes etc.
Left: CEO Andy Williamson talking us through the map ‘pulley system’*
What if it was you? 
After spending just a few hours with the team I would have 100% confidence in them. The job they do is needed. They need us to help them do it. 
I touched earlier on how much the helicopter takes to run each month and that they don’t get any kind of funding. That is where we come in. 
If you’ve ever watched a younger sibling suffering from critical illness (I have), if you’ve ever cried at your babies bedside then you will understand how valuable this team are. 

Take a minute to find out more about them, the team and read about their amazing rescue news on their site

 The Children’s Air Ambulance
I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone at TCAA, I really enjoyed the day. It was incredibly informative. 
* Right-hand side had minutes to destination, pin on map for base location. String moved to pick up the site, causes the pulley to left on the right-hand site and give approx minutes to destination. Brilliant. 

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