Why we fly
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
A mother of five from Burnham Thorpe, Norfolk- who has never flown before- had her first flight when she accompanied her critically ill daughter in the Children’s Air Ambulance in September 2020.
Mentally and physically exhausted, Cara Marchant had been by her child’s bedside for three weeks at the Evelina Children’s Hospital in London.
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. I had never flown before – and don’t even have a passport!” 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 on board 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.
When she was three weeks old doctors discovered that she has Alagille syndrome – a genetic disorder that affects primarily the liver and the heart.
She will have to undergo further heart surgery before she can have a liver transplant and Cara and her husband Tom are waiting to find out when she will have her next procedure.
“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, it also helped me at a time I was very stressed and exhausted.
Although I was nervous about flying and hadn’t been in the sky before, I was made to feel very safe and I knew we were both in the best hands possible getting where we needed to be as quickly and as safely as possible.”