Norfolk child’s flight featured in national charity Christmas Appeal
The story of a critically ill young girl from Burnham Thorpe is the focus of this year’s Christmas Appeal for the Children’s Air Ambulance (TCAA).
Mentally and physically exhausted mother of five, Cara Marchant had been by her child Elodie’s bedside for three weeks at the Evelina Children’s Hospital in London in September 2020.
Elodie (2 years 6 months at the time) had been admitted to the specialist paediatric hospital for a scheduled heart catheter procedure but, due to complications, she was unexpectedly transferred to the intensive care unit.
To make a bad situation worse, she then contracted an infection and sepsis and had to be given intravenous antibiotics for up to 10 days.
Cara says: “I was with Elodie on my own and stayed by her side most of the time. For a while, it was touch and go and I didn’t think she was going to make it.”
“I was totally exhausted and didn’t have the strength to cope by myself in London anymore. I asked if Elodie could be transferred to the local hospital so she could continue her treatment nearer to home. This would mean that my husband could take over from me and I could see my other children again.”
There was a bed available for Elodie at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn and Cara expected they would make the 118-mile journey there by land ambulance.
“When they said we were going by helicopter I felt sick with fear but I knew it was the quickest way to get to the local hospital and Elodie needed to be there as soon as possible. I was pleased about that but also very nervous,” she says.
A specialist paediatric intensive care team from South Thames Retrieval Service – based at the Evelina Hospital – prepared Elodie for the transfer and accompanied her and Cara on the flight to Norfolk.
The Children’s Air Ambulance was mobilised from its base in Oxford and flew to Battersea Heliport in London to meet the STRS team with Elodie and Cara.
After everyone was safely onboard the helicopter – Elodie in a specially designed child’s harness – it took off and just 52 minutes later landed on the helipad at Queen Elizabeth Hospital. The same journey by road would take over two-and-a-half hours depending on traffic conditions.
“It was such a relief to get there and know that things would be easier as the hospital is only 23 miles from our home.”
“The pilots were A1. They made me feel safe and looked after, and I knew that Elodie was in the best possible hands with the team from STRS accompanying us on the flight,” says Cara.
It was another five days before Elodie was well enough to go home.
“It is amazing what the Children’s Air Ambulance does, especially as it is all made possible by fundraising and donations. Not only did being transferred on the helicopter make a difference to my daughter but it also helped me at a time I was very stressed and exhausted.
“As it is the season of goodwill to all, I am hoping Elodie’s story will encourage people to support this vital charity which helps to save lives every day. Elodie is living proof of the amazing work they do every day of the year – including Christmas Day.”
Every year, many families are kept together and able to celebrate special occasions, like Christmas, thanks to the Children’s Air Ambulance.
The Christmas appeal will land with supporters on 15 November and the charity hope the public can spread some sparkle this Christmas through donations. A gift of any amount will help towards keeping the lifesaving helicopters flying critical ill babies and children in 2022.