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Former Children’s Air Ambulance patient has come on leaps and bounds as he celebrates ninth birthday

Former Children’s Air Ambulance patient has come on leaps and bounds as he celebrates ninth birthday

Former Children’s Air Ambulance patient Buzz Shelley from Hurst Green, East Sussex celebrates his ninth birthday on 15 September.

He was transferred from the local hospital in Hastings to the Evelina Children’s Hospital in London when he urgently needed specialist paediatric care after his upper airway became obstructed due to croup and a chest infection in March 2019.

Thanks to the helicopter flight he got the treatment he needed quickly and since then, according to his mum Melissa, he has grown in confidence, height and strength.

“He’s coming on in leaps and bounds and taking part in new activities like rowing, riding his trike in the woods and going on long walks,” she says.

To celebrate his birthday Buzz is going to Legoland with Melissa and her husband Bobby for what promises to be a fun-filled family visit.

They are delighted to see the progress their son is making after being born with a very rare genetic disorder called Leopard Syndrome which has resulted in him being an intensive care patient six times since he was born.

Buzz suffers regular episodes of croup and is very vulnerable to chest infections which are exacerbated by the fact that, due to his condition, he has a very narrow airway. He takes antibiotics during the winter to prevent any infections developing and often has to stay indoors resting.

He had enjoyed 15 months without a croup episode when in March last year he developed another chest infection and the coughing and laboured breathing started again.

Just before midnight Buzz’s condition was so bad, he was fighting for breath so his parents called an ambulance and he was taken to the local Conquest Hospital in Hastings.

Buzz started to improve when he was given an adrenaline nebuliser and he was able to sleep but as soon as the effects of the nebuliser wore off he was struggling to breathe again.

This was familiar territory for the family and medical staff at the hospital who had treated Buzz before. They knew the only thing left to do was to transfer him to Evelina London Children’s Hospital where he could get the specialist care he urgently needed.

This had happened four times before with Buzz and Melissa making the journey to Central London by land ambulance – a road trip of two hours. But the transfer by air took just 27 minutes using the Children’s Air Ambulance.

The helicopter took off from its Oxford base, picked up a team from South Thames Retrieval Service (STRS)– based at the Evelina – and flew them to Hastings.

By the time the STRS team arrived, Buzz had been sedated and intubated and was on a ventilator. He was made ready for the transfer, put on the helicopter’s specially designed stretcher and flown to the capital.

Melissa was able to travel with her son and the STRS team on the helicopter.

“It was amazing how quickly we got to London. I was very distressed as I hadn’t slept for 48 hours and I was petrified about going on a helicopter. However, everybody was so kind, caring and supportive. They put me at ease and I knew Buzz and I were in safe hands.”

“Once we took off and flew over the A21 and M25 I could see the heavy traffic and I knew we would get to the hospital much quicker than by road,” she says.

As there is no Helipad at the Evelina, the helicopter landed at nearby King’s College Hospital where a land ambulance was waiting to transfer Buzz and his mum.

“Once we got to Evelina I was able to breathe a huge sigh of relief as I knew Buzz was going to be OK. He’s been treated at the hospital so many times it was like coming home. Unfortunately, our local hospital is not qualified or equipped to treat children like Buzz so getting to Evelina so quickly was crucial,” says Melissa.

Buzz was kept sedated in Evelina’s paediatric intensive care unit for three days while he was treated with antibiotics and steroids to clear the infection and give his body time to recover. Just a day after he was woken up he was well enough to be discharged and go home.

Despite his condition, Buzz leads a very independent life at a local mainstream school, has lots of friends and is adored by everyone that knows him.

“If the Children’s Air Ambulance didn’t get Buzz to the right hospital for the right treatment so quickly, things would have been so different today,” says Melissa.

The Children’s Air Ambulance relies on public support to keep families together and help young patients like Buzz so that they are able to celebrate their birthdays. To help more children like Buzz, click here.