Why we fly

Kathleen’s Story

When we were up in the sky on the way back to Doncaster, I knew that the majority of the worst was behind us and I had hope for the future.

Claire, Kathleen's Mum

When Claire Garner gave birth to her fourth child at Doncaster Royal Infirmary both she and the baby could have lost their lives.

Due to an umbilical cord prolapse, a category 1 emergency C-section had to be performed within 30 minutes because of the immediate danger to them both.

Kathleen was born with three minutes to spare, she was rushed into intensive care and two hours later taken by land ambulance to a hospital 147 miles away for urgently needed cooling therapy (hypothermia treatment) – because doctors were worried she might have suffered brain damage.

It was a frightening time for Claire who only saw her new born daughter for a few minutes before she was whisked away.

Two days later Claire was well enough to be driven to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford by a relative to be reunited with Kathleen who, by then, was responding well to the treatment.

After 5 days doctors said Kathleen could go back to Doncaster to establish feeding as, at this point, she was being tube fed.

This is when the Children’s Air Ambulance, working with a specialist neo-natal team from Embrace – Yorkshire & Humber Infant & Children’s Transport Service (part of Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust) – were able to get mother and baby quickly and safely back to the hospital where Kathleen was born.

The helicopter took off from its base in Oxford and flew to Barnsley to collect the Embrace team and then back to Oxford to the John Radcliffe Hospital.

Being able to travel with her daughter meant so much to Claire after the trauma of them being separated at birth. She says:

“It was really important to me to be able to fly with Kathleen as I wasn’t able to be with her when she went to Oxford.”

“I was so happy I could go back with her. I didn’t want her to go on her own again, even though I knew she was going to be safe. After being separated it was very important to me that we were together for the journey home.”

“I was well enough after the C-section to fly. I didn’t know what to expect but everything was explained to me and I was put at ease. The air ambulance pilots and the Embrace team were absolutely amazing.”

“My baby was being constantly monitored and watched thousands of feet in the air, that’s quite a thing on its own. They made sure everything she needed was in place and she was alright. I was kept up to date and told how things were every time they checked her.”

“When we were up in the sky on the way back to Doncaster, I knew that the majority of the worst was behind us and I had hope for the future.”

It took just 49 minutes to fly Claire and Kathleen from Oxford to Doncaster, compared with a road journey of just under three hours.

It was two days before Christmas and Claire was pleased to be close to home and able to spend time with her other three children on Christmas Day.

The best present for all the family was when Kathleen was discharged from the neo-natal unit four days after being flown home by the Children’s Air Ambulance.

By then, doctors had confirmed that thankfully she had suffered no long-term damage from her traumatic birth and she was feeding well.

Claire and her family say they will be forever grateful to the Children’s Air Ambulance, working with the Embrace team, for getting baby Kathleen back home quickly and safely.

“We can’t thank the crew enough. Everyone was so helpful and made sure everything was OK for both of us. We were so lucky to have been transported by such a specialist team,” she says.