Weymouth Children’s Air Ambulance patient now a ‘bundle of fun’ as she celebrates second birthday
Former Children’s Air Ambulance patient Jessica Williamson from Weymouth is celebrating her second birthday today, the 16 March.
When she was 10 weeks old, she was transferred by helicopter from Dorset County Hospital in Dorchester to Southampton General Hospital for a lifesaving heart operation.
According to her mum Lizzie, she is now “full of energy, cheeky, smiley, giggly and just a bundle of fun.”
The family are hoping to go to the beach – one of Jessica’s favourite places – on her birthday so she can splash in the sea in her wellies with her big sister Rosie.
Lizzie has paid tribute to the Children’s Air Ambulance for getting her daughter safely and quickly to Southampton for the urgent surgery she needed in May 2019.
“We were totally gobsmacked when we were told that it is a charity and feel very lucky that this amazing facility was made available for our daughter when she needed it. We always felt she was in very safe hands,” she says.
It took just 25 minutes by air to transfer Jessica compared with a road journey by land ambulance of well over an hour, not allowing for traffic delays.
Because it was necessary for her to be transported whilst on a breathing machine, she couldn’t be taken in a land ambulance as they don’t have the facilities to support the equipment. There was only one specialist paediatric ambulance that could have made the trip – but that was needed elsewhere.
So, this is where the Children’s Air Ambulance was able to help.
It was mobilised from its base in Oxford and flew to Southampton to pick up a specialist paediatric retrieval team from Southampton Oxford Retrieval Team (SORT) – one of the clinical partners working with the Children’s Air Ambulance – and take them to Dorchester.
They then prepared Jessica for the flight back to Southampton and accompanied her and her dad Ian in the helicopter.
“It was about 5pm on a Friday when we were flying. I remember looking out of the helicopter and seeing cars backing up on the motorway and thinking how glad I was that we were in the sky and not on the road,” he says.
On arrival at Southampton, Jessica – who was born with a congenital heart defect – went straight into the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit.
She stayed there, with Ian and Lizzie constantly by her side, for two weeks whilst medical staff prepared her for her operation, which she now desperately needed.
Jessica had open-heart surgery when she was 12 weeks old and it went so well it is unlikely that she will need further operations.
“It’s amazing to see how far Jessica has come since then. We are so grateful to every single person who played a role in keeping our baby safe. It still amazes us that the Children’s Air Ambulance is a charity and that they are still able to continue making such a difference to families like ours given the challenges they have been faced with during the pandemic,” says Lizzie.