UK child flight charity The Children’s Air Ambulance (TCAA) has reported that it completed it’s first ever patient transport mission on 11 May, transferring a neonatal patient from a local hospital to a specialist paediatric care centre. The one-day-old baby boy was taken on a fifteen-minute flight from Scarborough Hospital to Hull Royal Infirmary after complications were revealed at his birth.
After a difficult labour, the baby’s mother had to be put under a general anaesthetic in order to give birth by emergency Caesarean section. He was born weighing just under five pounds (2.3 kg) and was five days late.
Doctors realised that the boy needed an operation on his windpipe, which had failed to join correctly to his stomach. He was transferred for emergency surgery onboard TCAA’s helicopter, with staff from the Embrace Yorkshire and Humber Infant and Children’s Transport Service, part of Sheffield Children’s National Health Service Foundation Trust, who provided care.
TCAA pilots Shaun Tinkler Rose and Paul Hogan took off in the Agusta 109 Grand at 09:25 hrs from Coventry Airport. They collected the specialist medical team from Embrace headquarters and travelled to Scarborough Hospital to pick up the patient, and then conducted a flight of just 15 minutes to Hull Royal Infirmary. Meanwhile, the baby’s parents travelled onboard a ground ambulance, joining their son when he came out of theatre. Such a swift and efficient move helps reduce stress on both the baby and the parents, and quick intervention helps speed recovery, said TCAA.
The baby’s father said of the transfer: “[I appreciate] what The Children’s Air Ambulance did for us. If it hadn’t been there, [our son] would have had to wait an hour in the land ambulance with all the shaking around.”
TCAA lead pilot Shaun Tinkler Rose added: “We estimated that by road this journey would have taken over an hour. Our total flight time was only 15 minutes with the patient onboard. As we flew along, we could see congested roads and the difficulty a land ambulance would face, especially if it needed to travel in rush hour traffic. It’s cases like this where every minute can, and does, count.”
After arriving at Hull Royal Infirmary, the boy underwent a tracheo-oesophageal fistula operation and is now recovering well with no expected complications.
Dr Stephen Hancock, lead consultant for Embrace in charge of the patient’s care onboard the aircraft said: “Embrace were delighted to work with TCAA on their first ever transfer, providing the medical and nursing teams to get this baby to a specialist centre where he could undergo surgery. All the teams involved have been working really hard to get to this point, and it is gratifying to see the helicopter in the air. This service is so vital, because quicker transfer times mean that our medical teams are available to look after more critically ill children.”
Alex Toft, director of operations and clinical services for TCAA, added: “We are incredibly proud of The Children’s Air Ambulance. This week sees the culmination of 18 months of hard work and dedication from our teams to get this aircraft off the ground. We are a bespoke helicopter transfer service, which will be used to fly children to specialist hospitals so that they can receive the treatment they so desperately need. Taking a child out of the controlled environment of a hospital adds risk – we want to help minimise that risk.”
Andy Williamson, chief executive officer of TCAA, said that this was the first of many paediatric transfers that TCAA we will complete this year, adding that the service will ‘make a significant impact on the survival and recovery of hundreds of youngsters’.
As well as transferring patients, TCAA will continue to fly specialist paediatric medical teams and equipment to children, such as the Extra Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation Team (ECMO) from Glenfield Hospital in Leicester, who have completed four flights with the service since December 2012.