Why we fly
Baby Blaize (7 months) was lying on the treatment table in the resuscitation room at his local hospital dangerously close to dying. His left lung had collapsed after he inhaled a piece of food, his tiny body was limp and he had stopped breathing.
When his mum Tash and dad Nigel arrived at St Mary’s Hospital in Newport on the Isle of Wight – after getting a call from the nursery where Blaize had choked on his lunch – there were 17 medical staff doing everything they could to save their little boy’s life.
“I ran into the children’s resus room to find them fighting to save my baby boy from choking. He was blue, his eyes rolled back, his SATS were low. They fought to resuscitate him and clear his airway as his left lung collapsed.”
“They were running around trying to find the right equipment to stabilise our baby as the hospital has been downgraded and all paediatric intensive care and complex or pre 32 week-neonatal cases now go to Southampton. It was pretty horrific to watch and listen to. We had to put our trust in a general surgeon.” says Tash.
Thankfully, the doctors were able to stabilize Blaize’s oxygen levels and he was anesthetised and intubated.
But his life was still hanging in the balance and it was vital he got to the specialist paediatric care he needed as quickly as possible.
“It was absolutely terrifying. He was losing his life. His oxygen levels were dangerously low and his carbon dioxide levels dangerously high. His body was in so much stress he was going to flat line,” says Nigel.
Blaize’s lung would be filling up with mucus and he was at risk of infection and contracting pneumonia if he didn’t receive further treatment.
The Children’s Air Ambulance was mobilised and flew from the base in Oxford to Southampton General Hospital to pick up colleagues from the Southampton Oxford Retrieval Team (SORT) and take them to the Isle of Wight.
Tash will never forget the moment the helicopter arrived at the hospital.
“When we heard it land everyone in that room breathed a sigh of relief. There was suddenly an atmosphere of calm and stability. You could see the panic go from the eyes of the medical staff. It was the moment that Nigel and I thought it was going to be OK,” she says.
The retrieval team checked Blaize and prepared him for the 7 minute flight to the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit back at Southampton.
While this was happening Nigel collected their son Jonah (8) and drove and took the ferry to Southampton – a journey that took two hours and 15 minutes.
Tash stayed with Blaize and accompanied him on the helicopter.
An ENT consultant was waiting on the helipad at Southampton when the air ambulance landed and Blaize was rushed to intensive care to be monitored. Later that evening he was taken to the operating theatre for a bronchoscopy which confirmed that there was no infection in his damaged lung.
“Being able to get from St Mary’s to Southampton in seven minutes is phenomenal. The Children’s Air Ambulance saved his life. The doctors who saw him when we got there said that the speed of his arrival meant that there hadn’t been time for an infection to develop,” says Tash.
It was the news that the family, who were now together again after their separate journeys, were so desperate to hear.
“The Children’s Air Ambulance got Blaize to where he needed to be quickly. There was no panic about the logistics of driving and getting a ferry like there had been for me – and hoping that the weather conditions were OK and the ferry was sailing,” says Nigel.
Blaize was kept intubated and under sedation for 48 hours and was given antibiotics to ensure that his lungs remained clear of infection. When he regained consciousness, remarkably he was considered well enough to go home.
“He pinged back like a little phoenix and was soon laughing and being the little live wire we love so much,” says Tash.
She and Nigel had never heard of the Children’s Air Ambulance before it transported Blaize in his hour of need. They say:
“The green helicopter that saved our son should be breaking news on the Isle of Wight as people don’t know about it – and they need to.
It’s terrifying for all parents on the island that the nearest paediatric intensive care unit and pre 28 weeks neonatal care is two and a half hours away across the water.
The Children’s Air Ambulance saved our son’s life and will, no doubt, save the lives of other babies and children on the Isle of Wight in the future. It’s amazing.”