Why we fly
When we were told that the Children’s Air Ambulance was coming for Oscar we were shocked and so pleased that he was going to be taken to where he needed to be
Within hours of being born by C-section at Royal Cornwall Hospital, Treliske baby Oscar started making grunting noises when he was breathing and his oxygen saturation levels plummeted.
He was transferred to the neonatal unit where he was given antibiotics and oxygen, but he didn’t improve and doctors began to suspect that he might have something wrong with his heart.
An echocardiogram was carried out and it looked as though Oscar might have a rare congenital malformation called Total Anomalous Pulmonary Venus Return (TAPVR).
The doctors in Cornwall needed a second opinion and so a video link was set up with the specialist paediatric cardiac team at Bristol Children’s Hospital – 168 miles away.
“Apparently it was the first time in three years that a baby had been born in Cornwall with the condition and the doctors in Bristol said they wanted Oscar there within 48 hours. It was awful. There was no history of heart problems in our family and we were wondering why this was happening to us,” says Oscar’s, mum Clare.
While new-born Oscar was kept stable and under continual monitoring in an incubator, hospital staff in Cornwall tried to make arrangements for him to be transported to Bristol.
Twice a land ambulance was arranged to take Oscar to the specialist care he needed but on both occasions it was cancelled.
“We completely understood that something more serious had come up but it was very frustrating and we were getting to the point of despair,” explains Clare.
Not quite knowing what was going to happen next – and getting more and more worried about their tiny son’s health – she and her husband Harry just wanted Oscar to get where he needed to be as quickly as possible.
That is where the Children’s Air Ambulance was able to help. The helicopter took off from its base in Oxford and flew to Bristol to pick up a specialist retrieval team from Wales and West Acute Transport for Children Service (WATCh) to fly them to the Royal Cornwall Hospital.
On arrival, the team prepared Oscar for the flight back to Bristol Children’s Hospital and accompanied him in the helicopter – which took just 54 minutes to complete the transfer. The same journey by road would have taken nearly three hours.
“When we were told that the Children’s Air Ambulance was coming for Oscar we were shocked and so pleased that he was going to be taken to where he needed to be. We looked out of the hospital window and saw the helicopter like a big green angel in the sky,” says Clare.
As it was just three days since she had undergone a C-section operation, she was unable to accompany her son in the helicopter so she and her husband Harry drove to Bristol, which took three and a half hours.
“The team from WATCh kept us updated on Oscar’s progress while we were travelling. By the time we made it out of Cornwall the helicopter had landed in Bristol and by the time we got to Exeter he was settled and on the ward. We knew by the end of the day he would be seen by one of the consultants and we would know more about his condition,” she explains.
It was confirmed that Oscar had TAPVR and after a week in Bristol undergoing tests and being monitored, he was sent home with a plan in place to operate when he was three months old.
However, this didn’t happen as at the age of ten weeks old, Oscar’s condition had deteriorated so much that the surgery was brought forward.
Eight months after the operation (April 2020) Oscar is a happy baby who is thriving and is now the target weight for his age. He is sitting up and laughing and bringing joy to his parents and older brother Jack (3).
“We will never forget what the Children’s Air Ambulance did for us and are so grateful. We were despairing of ever getting Oscar to the place he needed to be and until the green helicopter arrived had no idea that there was a service to transfer seriously ill children to the specialist care they need.”
“We want to share the story of what happened to us to help raise awareness of and funds for the Children’s Air Ambulance as it is a charity and receives no government funding,” says Clare.