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Air ambulance delivers baby Brandon home

When Sarah and Paul Farrow’s first child was born 12 weeks early and 270 miles away from home the young parents’ lives took a dramatic turn for the worst.

What had started as a weekend break in London to celebrate Sarah’s birthday quickly turned into a traumatic 18-day stay in the capital city as they spent every waking hour in the Neonatal Intensive Care Units at two hospitals after baby Brandon’s unexpected arrival into the world.

The couple had gone to Newham University Hospital after Sarah developed painful stomach cramps on their second day in London.

Four hours later Brandon was born naturally weighing just 3lb 4oz.

Like many premature babies he needed to be intubated because he couldn’t breathe for himself. As his breathing improved doctors became worried that he might have a perforated bowel and so Brandon and his mum were blue-lighted in a land ambulance to the Royal London Hospital for an emergency operation.

Thankfully surgeons discovered that Brandon’s bowel had self-healed but the operation took its toll on his tiny body and he had to be intubated and given morphine to help his recovery.

Brandon was being fed via an intravenous line in his foot and had to be able to tolerate nasal tube feeds before he could be transferred to a hospital nearer to home. He was 18 days old when doctors decided he could be moved.

When the Children’s Air Ambulance (TCAA) was mobilised to transfer Brandon and his mum to a hospital near their home in Durham, a difficult situation became a lot easier and Sarah felt huge relief to be heading north again where she and Paul have a network of friends and family.

“We had been in London for nearly three weeks with just a small bag of clothes. Paul was going to have to return to work so I would have been in London on my own. Getting home meant we could stay together as a family until Brandon was well enough to go home. It meant everything to us,” she says.

The Children’s Air Ambulance took off from our Doncaster base and flew to Barnsley to pick up a specialist neo-natal team from Embrace – Yorkshire & Humber Infant & Children’s Transport Service, part of Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust. They then flew to London to collect Brandon and Sarah.

“Brandon was in an incubator and on oxygen. He didn’t like being in a confined space or wearing ear defenders so it was a good thing that the transfer time was minimised by flying in the helicopter as he clearly wasn’t very happy,” says Sarah.

Being able to travel with her son was a great comfort. “I could see all the monitors so I knew that everything was OK during the flight which was a great comfort,” she adds.

It took one hour 48 minutes to fly the 271 miles from London to Durham compared to a road journey of four hours 40 minutes.

The helicopter landed on playing fields near University Hospital of Durham where a land ambulance was waiting to take Brandon to the Special Care Baby Unit.

It was another five and a half weeks before he was finally allowed home but Sarah and Paul will forever be grateful to the Children’s Air Ambulance and Embrace for safely transferring their son to a hospital where he could get the specialist care he needed close to the family home.

The Children’s Air Ambulance is a unique national service flying critically ill babies and children from one hospital to another for specialist care. It is the only dedicated neo-natal and paediatric helicopter emergency transfer and is based in the north and south of the country.

The free of charge service works alongside NHS transport teams to help fly neo-natal and paediatric patients to specialist treatment. The bespoke, specialist equipment on board our helicopters provide a flying intensive care unit for children.

When a child is too sick to fly, the Children’s Air Ambulance can fly a specialist team to them. With flight times commonly around four times quicker than a transfer by road, in many cases, the time saved means a life saved.

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