News Hub

Children’s Air Ambulance celebrates 10 years of vital service

Children’s Air Ambulance celebrates 10 years of vital service

On 10 May 2013, the national Children’s Air Ambulance (TCAA) took to the skies as the only helicopter dedicated to transferring critically ill babies and children across the UK, undertaking its first vital patient transfer using an AgustaWestland 109 helicopter.

Baby Theo was born at Scarborough Hospital in May 2013, to his parents Denisa Mikova and Lee Ratchford. But what should have been the happiest moment of their lives, soon became a nightmare for the new parents, as baby Theo was diagnosed with a life-threatening condition. 

Tiny Theo weighed just less than 5lbs when he was delivered by caesarean section, after a very difficult labour for Denisa, who had to be anaesthetised during the birth of her son. When Denisa awoke following the surgery, she and Lee were told by doctors that Theo’s oesophagus was not connected to his stomach properly and that he would need vital surgery if he was to survive.   

Scarborough Hospital did not have the specialist surgeons required to perform the necessary operation, and his parents were told that he would need to be transferred to Hull Royal Infirmary to receive the lifesaving treatment needed, which was over an hour’s drive away. 

“We thought we would be going by ambulance,” said Lee, “but then the helicopter came for him.” 

The Children’s Air Ambulance was activated from its Coventry base, collected the clinical partner team, Embrace, and flew to Scarborough Hospital to pick up little Theo.

Once Theo was on board, the flight to Hull took just 15 minutes, a journey which would have taken over an hour by road, without including traffic conditions during rush hour. It’s cases like this where every minute can, and does, count.

Since Theo’s flight, the Children’s Air Ambulance has developed over the years into the pioneering transfer service it is today. It’s changing the face of paediatric and neonatal care through the high-speed transfer of critically ill babies and children and flying them from one hospital to another for specialist care.

TCAA’s fleet has progressed to two new clinically designed AgustaWestland 169 helicopters – supplied by Sloane Helicopters Ltd – one based at London Oxford Airport and the other at Gamston (Retford) Airport – providing flying intensive care units for babies and children.

The charity works with 11 NHS paediatric retrieval teams across the UK, enabling them to bring their specialist equipment on board to safely transfer their patients from one hospital to another. If a child is too sick to fly, then the Children’s Air Ambulance can fly a specialist team directly to them.

This year the charity celebrates its 10th anniversary of the lifesaving service which without public support, simply wouldn’t be here. Every donation it receives goes a long way towards the £3,500 needed to keep the green helicopters flying.

What better way for the charity to celebrate 10 years than its first-ever Extra Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) patient transfer. That’s not all – the charity has also carried out over 720 patient transfers and developed its new Neonatal Transport Systems (incubators). These systems have been designed especially for its helicopters and are the first incubators on a rotary-wing aircraft in England.

The Children’s Air Ambulance charity is continually looking at ways to increase support to the NHS and the clinical teams it works alongside. By introducing pioneering developments from generous public donations, the service is really leading the way in paediatric and neonatal aeromedical transfers.