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Hurst Green boy is at the heart of our Valentine’s fundraising campaign

An eight-year-old schoolboy from Hurst Green, East Sussex is the face of a national fundraising campaign for the Children’s Air Ambulance.

Buzz Shelley (8) was flown by the lifesaving transfer service for critically ill babies and children in March last year after an episode of croup left him struggling to breathe.

He has a very rare genetic disorder called Leopard Syndrome which has resulted in him being an intensive care patient six times since he was born.

The story of Buzz’s transfer from the local Conquest Hospital in Hastings to Evelina London Children’s Hospital – for the specialist care he urgently needed – is the focus of the Flying Little Hearts Appeal which coincides with Valentine’s Day.

It was the first time he had been transported by helicopter.

On four previous occasions, Buzz and Melissa had made 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 base in Oxford, picked up a specialist children’s intensive care team based at the Evelina London Children’s Hospital, and flew them to Hastings.

By the time the South Thames Retrieval Service team arrived, Buzz had been sedated and intubated and was on a ventilator. They prepared him for the journey to the capital before transferring him onto the helicopter’s specially designed stretcher.

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

“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 the STRS intensive care 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.

Melissa says:

“We are so grateful to the Children’s Air Ambulance for getting us to the specialist hospital so quickly and we hope that sharing our family’s experience will help raise awareness of and funds for this lifesaving charity which receives no government funding and relies totally on donations to remain operational.”