Why we fly

Amelia and Bronwen’s Story

It is incredible what the Children’s Air Ambulance did for us that day. We never doubted the safety of the twins and knew they were in the hands of professionals who we immediately trusted. It is an amazing service and what they managed to do for us is quite incredible

Katy, Amelia and Bronwen's Mum

Twin girls unexpectedly born at 27+6 weeks old when their parents were on holiday – 213 miles away from home in North Hertfordshire – were transferred by the Children’s Air Ambulance in two separate missions on the same day.

Amelia and Bronwen made their early entrance into the world at The James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough after their mum Katy went into spontaneous labour.

Her waters had broken in the early hours of the morning and because she was expecting identical twins a land ambulance took Katy from the Dinsdale farmhouse they were staying into hospital for the birth.

The girls were born naturally on 20 February 2020 with Amelia weighing 1.19kg and Bronwen – who arrived nine minutes later – slightly smaller at 1.02kg.

Katy and her husband James were in a state of shock and with their tiny twins needing specialist 24-hour paediatric care, they then had to spend four-and-a-half weeks, without the support of family and friends, living at the hospital so they could be with their daughters.

During this time the consequences of the impending Covid-19 crisis and lockdown were becoming more evident – to the point where all the food outlets and shops in and around the hospital closed.

“As it was so difficult for us to get food towards the end of our stay, the hospital staff were going to the canteen every day to get us a hot meal,” says Katy.

As the twins grew and got stronger plans were made to get them back home to the nearest neonatal unit at Lister Hospital, Stevenage.

The short supply of land ambulances available to transport premature babies meant a road journey was unlikely so it was decided to use a fixed-wing plane to transfer the girls. Arrangements were made, the twins were ready for the flight but at the last minute, it was cancelled.

By now the country had entered full lockdown and the pressure was on to get Amelia and Bronwen closer to home as soon as possible.

This is when the Children’s Air Ambulance, working with a specialist neonatal team from Embrace – Yorkshire & Humber Infant & Children’s Transport Service (part of Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust) – was able to transfer the twins safely and quickly.

It took a day for the Airdesk – based at Coventry Airport – to plan the mission, including crew availability, refuelling stops and timings for both transfers.

“It was a massive relief when we were told it was happening. It was really important for us to stay together as a family and not be separated across the country, so knowing that by the end of the day we would all be reunited closer to home was fantastic,” says Katy.

On 24 March 2020 – when the twins were 33 days old – the helicopter took off from its base in Doncaster and flew to Barnsley to collect the Embrace team and then on to Middlesbrough.

Katy and James watched Amelia being put into the specially designed BabyPod for the helicopter transfer. This provides a safe and secure environment and allows treatment to continue throughout the flight.

They then set off in their car to drive to Stevenage. When they arrived at the hospital four hours later Amelia was safe and settled in the neonatal unit. Her helicopter transfer had taken just one hour 29 minutes.

In the meantime, the Children’s Air Ambulance and the Embrace team flew back to Doncaster where a replacement helicopter crew were waiting.

Just over 40 minutes later they landed the helicopter at the hospital in Middlesbrough to collect Bronwen.

Like her twin sister, she was prepared for the flight by the Embrace team and placed in the BabyPod. Just one hour 22 minutes after taking off from Middlesbrough she arrived in Stevenage to be reunited with her parents and sister.

“Thanks to the great joint effort of the Children’s Air Ambulance and Embrace team we were able to see Amelia leave in the helicopter and Bronwen arrive in it. Throughout the whole process, everyone was really reassuring and even though we weren’t with the girls we were kept up to date with what was happening to them,” says Katy.

“It is incredible what the Children’s Air Ambulance did for us that day. We never doubted the safety of the twins and knew they were in the hands of professionals who we immediately trusted. It is an amazing service and what they managed to do for us is quite incredible,” she adds.

The twins were in hospital for a total of 82 days. On 4 May 2020, they were discharged from Lister Hospital and taken home for the first time.

Katy says: “Looking back, I don’t think the twins would have travelled on the same day if it wasn’t for such an amazing effort from the Children’s Air Ambulance and the Embrace team. The girls now have their special bears as a reminder of the Children’s Air Ambulance getting us home together.”

Director of Operations, Richard Clayton says that missions like this is why the Children’s Air Ambulance exists.

“I am delighted that we were able to facilitate both transfers seamlessly on the same day. Everyone involved was focused on the sole objective to transfer both twins safely which brought with it a number of logistical challenges to overcome. The flexibility and commitment shown by the pilots, Children’s Air Ambulance Airdesk Coordinators and NHS Specialist Transport Team partner is commendable,” he says.

These vital missions wouldn’t be possible without public support, to help more babies like Amelia and Bronwen, please click here