Former Children’s Air Ambulance patient now “a happy, cheeky character” celebrates his birthday
Former Children’s Air Ambulance patient George Turville from Bideford celebrates his 4th birthday on 21 June.
When he was eight weeks old George was transferred by helicopter from the local hospital in Barnstaple to Bristol Children’s Hospital after being diagnosed with a serious heart condition.
It took just 26 minutes to fly him to the specialist cardiac unit compared with a road journey of at least two hours without traffic delays.
George was diagnosed with Dilated Cardiomyopathy and Mitral Regurgitation, for which sadly there is no cure, but the condition can be managed with medication.
According to his mum Janita Barlow he is now “a happy, cheeky character who is always smiling and laughing and who loves to sing and dance.”
He is now fully mobile after the developmental delays caused by his condition and has started at pre-school two days a week where he has made lots of new friends who will start primary school with him in September.
His health now is very different from the August day in 2017 when Janita accompanied George in the Children’s Air Ambulance to Bristol.
The helicopter had flown from Coventry to pick up a specialist retrieval team from Bristol-based Wales and West Acute Transport for Children (WATCh) and then on to Devon to prepare George for and accompany him back on the flight to Bristol.
“It would have been a very long and stressful journey by road. If George’s condition suddenly deteriorated during that time who knows how it may have ended,” says Janita.
She travelled with George in the helicopter on the same day as being told that her son needed to undergo an urgent echocardiogram after being diagnosed with a heart murmur and referred to hospital by the local GP. He was in severe heart failure.
“The paediatric consultants at Barnstaple said that a transfer by air ambulance was considered the safest and quickest way of taking George to Bristol given his very young age and serious condition.”
“We were still trying to get our heads around George’s diagnosis, but then we met the pilots, and they were so supportive and reassuring. We felt in such safe hands and knew that getting George to the treatment he needed was all that mattered,” explains Janita.
When the helicopter touched down in Bristol, George was taken for an echocardiogram and it confirmed he had severe Dilated Cardiomyopathy and Mitral Regurgitation. The muscles and valve in his heart were weak and it meant he couldn’t pump blood around his body.
George underwent further tests and X-Rays to try to determine the underlying cause of his condition. He was connected to several monitors and given medication.
George responded well to the treatment and was allowed home after a week in hospital. Since then he has had regular checkups to monitor his condition.
He will be celebrating his birthday with a family BBQ in the garden.
Watching her son having fun on the bouncy castle that has been booked for the occasion will make Janita reflect on how things could have been so different if George had not been flown on the Children’s Air Ambulance.
She says: “You never know what is around the corner for your children as we found out with George. Without the amazing service provided by the Children’s Air Ambulance some youngsters might not get the lifesaving care they need quickly enough – and that doesn’t bear thinking about.”