Movie and pizza for former Children’s Air ambulance patient
Former Children’s Air Ambulance patient Declan Bitmead from South Godstone, Surrey is celebrating his 12th birthday on 03 July with a movie and pizza.
Despite having limited eyesight, he is looking forward to watching the film Titanic with his brother Oliver and parents Ashleigh and Andy.
Declan was flown from London to Bristol Royal Children’s Hospital in 43 minutes in March 2015 when he was suffering from a rare and life-threatening skin condition called toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN).
The condition affects 1 in a million people per year and to stand any chance of surviving Declan urgently needed care from a paediatric intensive care unit, a burns unit, a dermatologist and an eye specialist.
“Declan wouldn’t be here now if it had not been for that air transfer to Bristol to get the specialist care he desperately needed. If he’d had to go by road I am not sure he would have survived the journey,” says Ashleigh.
He had weeks of pain and worry as he battled against TEN – losing 96% of his skin. The doctors were eventually able to determine that this was triggered by Declan’s sensitivity to an antibiotic and unfortunately, as a result of the condition, he only has limited vision in his right eye.
Due to ongoing health concerns, Declan has had to shield during lockdown but since restrictions were lifted for vulnerable people he has enjoyed walks in the local countryside with his family.
“We are in the process of applying for a buddy dog for Declan from the Guide Dogs charity to help build his self-confidence and give him more independence. Hopefully, he’ll get one and then it will be walks every day,” says Ashleigh.
She and her husband are forever grateful to the Children’s Air Ambulance for transferring Declan when he needed lifesaving specialist care quickly.
“There was a time we weren’t sure if Declan would make his 7th birthday and here we find ourselves celebrating his last year before becoming a teenager. He has achieved so much in this time despite the daily struggles with his eyes and regular hospital appointments,” says Ashleigh.
The proud mum adds:
“He has raised a huge amount of money for charity, learned how to play blind football and met some of his England football heroes. He has fulfilled his dream of swimming with dolphins in Portugal, had a once in a lifetime trip to Florida as well as appearing on TV. He has shown tremendous strength, resilience and determination when many of us would have given up.
“It’s impossible to put into words how proud we are of him but we do know that without the Children’s Air Ambulance, there is a real possibility that Declan wouldn’t have been able to achieve any of these dreams which is why it is so important to support this charity as it is always there to protect the future of our children.”