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Wakefield baby’s incubator flight featured in national charity campaign

Wakefield baby’s incubator flight featured in national charity campaign

The story of how a Wakefield teacher and her baby were safely transferred home by the Children’s Air Ambulance (TCAA), features in the lifesaving charity’s national campaign.

Emily Arnott (24) was 30 weeks pregnant with Mila, when she and her partner Alistair went on holiday to Brighton, over 261-miles away from her home.

Up to that point, Emily’s pregnancy had been seemingly normal, but she felt a slight change whilst on holiday.

“I woke up and felt like Mila had moved, she was sat funny in my stomach, but I wasn’t really concerned,” says Emily.

It was when she was at a café in Lewes with Alistair on 03 August 2023 that Emily suddenly began bleeding heavily – so an ambulance was immediately called.

Emily was blue-lighted to the nearest hospital, Royal Sussex in Brighton.

“After arriving at A&E, the consultants thought that if they could stop the bleeding, then they would keep Mila in, but I would need to remain in hospital the entire time, but if they couldn’t stop it, then they needed to deliver Mila immediately,” she continues.

Whilst she was being monitoring Mila’s heart rate wasn’t consistent – and within thirty minutes of Emily’s arrival, they decided to deliver Mila by emergency caesarean section.

It took a few breaths to get her breathing once delivered, but Mila Upton was born nine weeks early, weighing 3lb 8oz.

As with all premature babies, the first 24 hours were critical, and Mila was kept under close observation in the neonatal unit. She had a feeding tube and was on oxygen.

“Mila came around quite quickly which was a relief, but it was such a mentally draining and traumatic experience, and we were so far away from home,” says Emily.

After four days in the Royal Sussex NICU, arrangements were made to transfer Mila back to the hospital in her hometown where she could be closer to her family.

Because of its new bespoke incubator system, this is where the Children’s Air Ambulance made a critical difference.

“I was shocked when they said we would be going by helicopter, I was terrified as I have never been on a helicopter before – but I was dreading going by land ambulance more as the journey would take about five and half hours.”

On 07 August, the helicopter took off from its Gamston base and flew to Barnsley to pick up a specialist retrieval team Embrace, Yorkshire & Humber Infant and Children’s Transport Service (part of Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust) – one of the clinical partner teams working with the Children’s Air Ambulance.

Embrace along with TCAA’s crew member reached Brighton and prepared Mila for her flight home, making her comfortable in the bespoke incubator, and accompanied her and Emily – who was utilising the parent seat onboard the AgustaWestland 169 helicopter – for the 261-mile northbound journey to Wakefield.

Embrace transport consultant Dr Ross Cronin said: “TCAA are a fantastic expert and friendly service to work alongside. They help us transfer many babies and children just like Mila over long distances at much faster times than by road. This has a positive impact on patients, staff, and availability of our service to other patients.”

It took just 90 minutes for Emily and Mila to reach Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield – a journey which would have taken over five hours by road, without considering traffic.

“It was a very calm journey; the team were great. Embrace spoke to me and explained what was going to happen, and the pilots and crew member were fantastic,” Emily says.

“It was a nice journey for both of us, and it could have been a lot worse if we hadn’t have gone by helicopter,” she adds.

Mila stayed at her local hospital for a month due to feeding, and on 03 September she was finally discharged.

“On reflection, it was the worst day of my life, but also the best, as I was convinced, I wasn’t going to go home with a baby – I am just so grateful to have Mila home with us,” says Emily.

“Mila is now such a happy and smiley baby, with no further complications – you wouldn’t know she was born in such crazy circumstances,” she adds.

Emily knew about the great work of the local emergency air ambulance but didn’t know much about the national Children’s Air Ambulance she and Mila flew on.

“It’s a great charity, as if it wasn’t for them transferring us home, we’d had to have stayed in Brighton for a month, having to find accommodation amongst many things to think about during the most traumatic time of our lives.”

Consultants concluded that Emily had placental abruption, where the placenta had peeled away from the uterus, there was no reason for it, which explained the normal pregnancy up until that fateful day.

“You don’t think it’ll happen to you; you can never mentally prepare for that. You never know what’s around the corner and who it might affect, so supporting the Children’s Air Ambulance is vital,” she says.

“My family and I now support the charity by playing its lottery as we know how much donations really matter,” she concludes.

Mila’s story features as part of the Children Air Ambulance’s national campaign. The Children’s Air Ambulance receives no government or National Lottery funding and relies on the generosity of the public to raise the £3,600 for each vital mission, like Mila’s.

To support the campaign, please click here.