Taunton boy’s vital flight featured in national charity Christmas appeal
The story of how a baby from Taunton was flown 75 miles home to the Special Care Baby Unit, just ten minutes away from home, is the focus of this year’s Christmas appeal for the Children’s Air Ambulance (TCAA).
After what she describes as “the hardest ten days of my life”, Emily Milton was “overwhelmed with gratitude” to see her tiny son Caiden safe and comfortable inside a specially designed baby pod ready to be flown by the Children’s Air Ambulance.
From the moment he was born by emergency caesarean – four weeks early – at Musgrove Park Hospital in his home town of Taunton, Caiden’s life was hanging in the balance. He had been starved of oxygen during his traumatic birth and was in urgent need of cooling therapy (therapeutic hypothermia) to reduce the chances of severe brain damage.
This treatment wasn’t available at the hospital and just four hours later Caiden, accompanied by dad James, was rushed by land ambulance to Derriford Hospital in Plymouth – 75 miles away.
Emily was still recovering from surgery and didn’t see Caiden until the next day when her mother drove her to join her partner and son in Plymouth.
“I didn’t know if he was going to be OK. I had only seen him for five minutes. It was so hard and I was very emotional,” she says.
Emily and James stayed with Caiden in Plymouth for 10 days until he was strong enough to be transferred back to the hospital where he was born. Their older son Noah – who was just approaching his second birthday at the time – was looked after by friends and relatives.
The family’s life was in chaos but, thankfully, Caiden responded to the cooling therapy and after eight days was strong enough to be taken off a ventilator. Two days later, although he was still being tube-fed, it was decided he could be moved back to Taunton.
“After everything we had been through we just wanted to get back home. When we found out that the Children’s Air Ambulance was coming to pick up Caiden and take him back to the hospital where he was born, we couldn’t believe it.”
“We had never heard of the charity and we know how much it costs to fly helicopters so we were overwhelmed that one was coming especially for our son. It was such a massive thing for us to get back home,” says Emily.
The Children’s Air Ambulance took off from our Oxford base to collect the NEST Team, a specialist neonatal transport team from University Hospital Bristol NHS Foundation Trust. They then flew to Plymouth to pick up Caiden.
It took just 26 minutes to fly him back to Musgrove Park Hospital, compared with a journey of 76 minutes by road.
There wasn’t enough room on the helicopter for Emily or James to fly with their son as the parent seat was being used by an additional member of the NEST team. But they didn’t mind as they knew Caiden was in safe hands and was being transported the quickest way possible.
“We were just so very very grateful to everybody involved in the transfer. We watched as Caiden was put into the baby pod and wheeled down the corridor to the helicopter. The NEST team sent us photos of him when they were in the air and we got regular text updates telling us how he was and when he arrived in Taunton,” explains Emily.
She and James left Plymouth as soon as they could. When they arrived in Taunton – just over an hour later – their son was sleeping soundly in the Special Care Baby Unit, only ten minutes away from home, where they were reunited with Noah.
After two days in the SCBU Caiden was feeding well from a bottle and was finally able to leave hospital.
“It was the end of the hardest ten days of my life and we were just overwhelmed with gratitude to the Children’s Air Ambulance and the NEST team for getting Caiden back safely and quickly,” says Emily.
“The Children’s Air Ambulance does so much for families like ours and what they do is so expensive. It’s amazing that people we don’t know – who donated to the charity – paid for Caiden to be flown home. We want to give something back to help fly another child or baby to the care they need so we are going to do some fundraising, “she adds.
The Children’s Air Ambulance is fast approaching 10 years of lifesaving transfer missions, providing vital support to the NHS. The Christmas campaign will land with supporters on 25 November, to show your support and help more babies like Caiden, please visit: https://theairambulanceservice.org.uk/childrens-air-ambulance/christmas-appeal