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Father’s Day Reflections for dad who flew with sick daughter on Children’s Air Ambulance

Father’s Day Reflections for dad who flew with sick daughter on Children’s Air Ambulance

Father’s Day has a special significance for Jeff Dear from Canterbury. As well as enjoying being with his family he will take a moment to reflect on how things could have been so different if it wasn’t for the Children’s Air Ambulance who he credits with saving the life of his youngest daughter Edith.

Just 18 months ago Edith needed specialist nursing after an emergency operation to remove her appendix. The Children’s Air Ambulance flew her to a paediatric intensive care unit 75 miles away, where she received the care she needed.

Jeff accompanied his daughter in the helicopter.

“We had a very sick little girl and without them, I wouldn’t have her now. The charity saved our daughter’s life. It’s amazing what they do,” he says.

Edith celebrated her 8th birthday on June 18th with a unicorn-themed barbeque with her family. Plans to take her and a friend to Alton Towers have been put on hold until after lockdown.

As he has been furloughed from his job as a gas engineer, Jeff has been at home with Edith and her sister Abigail (13) while mum Alex works as a porter at the local hospital.

“Edith has enjoyed home schooling and loves spending time with her new pet guinea pigs and dog. We have had a movie night in the garden and even managed to organise a school trip from home,” he says.

Seeing his youngest daughter enjoying life and fundraising for The Children’s Air Ambulance makes him very proud and thankful she was helped by the charity in January 2019.

On the day in question, Edith had been taken by land ambulance from her home in Canterbury to the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital in Margate with a high temperature and complaining of feeling unwell. It was only a year since she had recovered from meningitis and her family were very worried about her health again.

Initially, she was given intravenous fluids but her condition didn’t stabilise so she was transferred to the hospital’s high dependency unit where an ultrasound scan revealed that her appendix had burst.

Edith urgently needed an operation and the Children’s Air Ambulance was mobilised to fly from its base in Oxford to collect a team from the South Thames Retrieval Service (STRS) and fly them to Margate to accompany Edith back to King’s College Hospital, London – where there is a specialist paediatric department – for surgery.

But her condition was rapidly deteriorating and her kidneys had started to shut down so surgeons at Margate performed an emergency appendectomy. They found that her appendix was gangrenous, which explained Edith’s rapid decline.

The STRS team arrived on the helicopter while Edith was still in surgery. When she came out of the operating theatre they stabilised her ready for the flight back to London.

“Everyone was very reassuring and explained what was going to happen when she came out of the operation. They answered all our questions and we were relieved to know that she would be in good hands and be taken to the specialist post-operative care she needed as quickly as possible,” explains Jeff.

Alex was able to see her daughter and give her a kiss before she was put into the helicopter – which acts as a flying intensive care unit – for the 33-minute flight to London.

She watched the helicopter take off and then drove to London to join Alex and Edith at the hospital. The journey took three hours.

Edith was kept in an induced coma at King’s for one and a half weeks while her body recovered from the surgery.  During this time her parents stayed in a family centre near the hospital and between them kept a 24-hour vigil at Edith’s bedside.

After another week in hospital, Edith was discharged and had some time resting at home before going back to school. She has made a full recovery and is very proud of her operation scar – which she thinks makes her a superhero!