Death defying Dolly reaches 2nd birthday after being flown by the Children’s Air Ambulance twice
Dolly Wood from Stonehouse near Gloucester will be turning two years old on 23 August and is one of only a few patients who have been flown by the Children’s Air Ambulance twice.
This fact alone is testament to the medical challenges she and her family have faced since she was born at Gloucester Royal Infirmary by emergency C-section weighing just 1 pound 14 ounces.
A happy little girl who is due to start a special needs nursery next month, Dolly has stage three fibrosis of the liver, lasting lung and brain damage.
Her parents Alana Johnson and Jeff Wood have been told several times in the past that she won’t live. But their daughter has defied all the odds and is achieving milestones that many thought she never would.
They will be forever grateful to the Children’s Air Ambulance for the part it played in helping Dolly get the lifesaving medical care she needed as quickly as possible by transferring her from Bristol to London in January 2019 and then from London back to Bristol in March 2019.
“We had no idea that the Children’s Air Ambulance is a charity. Their service and kindness helped save our daughter’s life and then got us home safely together in record time. We are so very grateful,” says Alana.
Alana discovered she was pregnant at 19 weeks and just nine weeks later Dolly came into the world and was admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit at Gloucester Royal Infirmary.
As well as having the usual problems associated with being born prematurely, when she was 12 weeks old – around her original due date – Dolly went into acute liver failure.
She became very jaundiced and her liver didn’t respond to treatment so doctors decided to transfer her to King’s College Hospital, London for specialist treatment as well as neonatal care.
Dolly spent five weeks in London before going back to Gloucester and then – just two days before Christmas – Dolly went home for the first time to join Dad Jeff, her brother Fenton and Jeff’s three daughters, Charlotte, Aimee and Bella.
“It was such a happy but also scary time. Nobody imagines it will take four months in two different hospitals before you can have your whole family together, so we were very grateful to finally reach that day,” says Alana.
Unfortunately, the family’s enjoyment of the festive season was short-lived as on 29 December there was another crisis when Dolly became completely unresponsive at home.
“She went grey and floppy in the living room. We called 999. She was taking only ten very shallow breaths a minute and very nearly went into cardiac arrest. We thought she had died but when the paramedics arrived she finally started breathing again,” says Alana.
Once again Dolly was admitted to Gloucester Royal Infirmary where her condition worsened and she was put on a life support machine. But the hospital didn’t have the necessary paediatric equipment to treat her and she was rushed to Bristol Children’s Hospital by land ambulance.
“We were told that the next 24 hours were critical. Dolly was in acute respiratory distress and had bronchiolitis. Her left lung had collapsed and she only had 30 per cent functionality in her right lung,” explains Alana.
Further tests revealed that Dolly also had a bacterial infection in her chest and a routine blood test showed her liver was failing again.
She was on life support, the acute liver failure was becoming more and more of a concern again and she urgently needed to return to King’s College Hospital, London for specialist care.
That’s where the Children’s Air Ambulance was able to help. The helicopter took off from its base in Oxford and flew to Bristol to pick up Dolly and a retrieval team from clinical partners Wales & West Acute Transport for Children Service (WATCh) who accompanied her on the flight to London.
It took just 49 minutes – a journey which would have taken approximately 2 hours 40 minutes by road.
After previously being transported by road between various hospitals, Dolly’s parents were relieved that this time she would be transferred as quickly as possible by air.
“We were told numerous times that it was unlikely that she would make it. It was a very scary time but to know that she was going to get there so quickly was such a relief. The thought of her being stuck in traffic was awful. She was on a life support machine and her life hung in the balance, I just wanted her to get the help she needed as soon as possible” says Alana.
Dolly did get to London in time and on 1st March 2019 was well enough to go back to Bristol Children’s Hospital.
Once again, the Children’s Air Ambulance was mobilised from Oxford and flew to London to collect Dolly. A team from clinical partners South Thames Retrieval Service (STRS) accompanied her – and mum Alana was on the helicopter as well.
“When we knew we were going back to Bristol I was so relieved that we would get there as quickly as possible. To share that experience with Dolly was such a happy time. I will always remember it fondly. Everyone on the helicopter was so happy for us. They were all so kind and lovely,” she says.
Dolly has been at home – with periods in and out of hospital – since 23 April 2019 and Alana has given up her job to care for her full-time.
“We don’t really know what the future holds for her and that’s really hard to live with some days, but Dolly deserved her chance at life – even if that life isn’t what we’d all imagined for her. She knows no different and it was just an unfortunate series of events that has left her with disabilities, but she continues to defy the odds and I never ever take being her Mum for granted.”
“The Children’s Air Ambulance is an amazing service and we are so very grateful that it was there for our daughter twice. The charity needs donations to keep the helicopters flying and they deserve every penny they get,” says Alana.
The Children’s Air Ambulance relies on public support to keep families together and help little patients like Dolly so that they are able to celebrate their birthdays. To help more babies and children, click here.