Why we fly

Edith’s Story

When six-year-old Edith Dear needed specialist nursing after an emergency operation to remove her appendix the Children’s Air Ambulance flew her to a paediatric intensive care unit 75 miles away.

Edith had been taken by land ambulance from her home in Canterbury to the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital in Margate with a high temperature and complaining of feeling unwell. It was only a year since she had recovered from meningitis and her family were very worried about her health again.

Initially she was given intravenous fluids but her condition didn’t stabilise so she was transferred to the hospital’s high dependency unit where an ultrasound scan revealed that her appendix had burst.

Edith urgently needed an operation and the Children’s Air Ambulance was mobilised to fly from our base in Oxford to collect colleagues from the South Thames Retrieval Service (STRS) and fly them to Margate to accompany Edith back to King’s College Hospital, London – where there is a specialist paediatric department – for surgery.

But her condition was rapidly deteriorating and her kidneys had started to shut down so surgeons at Margate performed an emergency appendectomy. They found that her appendix was gangrenous, which explained Edith’s rapid decline.

The STRS team arrived on the helicopter while Edith was still in surgery. When she came out of the operating theatre they stabilised her ready for the flight back to London.

“Everyone was very reassuring and explained what was going to happen when she came out of the operation. They answered all our questions and we were relieved to know that she would be in good hands and be taken to the specialist post-operative care she needed as quickly as possible,” says Edith’s mum Alex.

Alex was able to see her daughter and give her a kiss before she was put into the helicopter – which acts as a flying intensive care unit – for the 33 minute flight to London.

Edith’s dad Jeff travelled with her.

“It took a while for the STRS team to get Edith into the helicopter but I was told what was happening and kept informed every step of the way until the helicopter took off which was very reassuring. I watched it fly away and then drove to London to join them at the hospital,” says Alex.

The road journey took her three hours.

Edith was kept in an induced coma at King’s for one and a half weeks while her body recovered from the surgery. During this time her parents stayed in a family centre near the hospital and between them kept a 24 hour vigil at Edith’s bedside.

Their eldest daughter Abigail (12) was looked after by relatives but she was able to see her sister when she regained consciousness.

After another week in hospital, Edith was discharged and had some time resting at home before going back to school. She has made a full recovery and is very proud of her operation scar – which she thinks makes her a superhero!

Ironically a few months before Edith was flown by the Children’s Air Ambulance, Alex and Jeff signed up for our lottery which raises funds for the charity.

“We had no idea then that we would soon get first-hand experience of what the charity does. We now have a real appreciation of the amazing difference the Children’s Air Ambulance makes to families like ours and we will always be grateful.

We are hoping to organise a Crazy Hair Day at Edith’s school to raise funds for the Children’s Air Ambulance as a way of saying thank you for helping her,” says Alex.