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York family reflect on son’s flight this World Prematurity Day

York family reflect on son’s flight this World Prematurity Day

World Prematurity Day (17 November) is a global movement to raise awareness of premature birth and the impact it can have on families, like Arlo’s.

Arlo was just three days old when he needed the help of the Children’s Air Ambulance (TCAA).

Mum-to-be Sharon had suddenly gone into labour while she was visiting family in Leamington with her husband Tom. They hadn’t long arrived at her sister-in-law’s house after driving down from York when things took a dramatic turn. 

Sharon’s waters broke in the early hours of the morning, and she had to be rushed to nearby Warwick Hospital, and after seven hours in labour, she gave birth to Arlo at 10.15am on 05 November 2016.

Arlo was five weeks premature and only weighed 5lbs 4oz and was placed in the Special Care Baby Unit so his weight and temperature – which were both causing concern – could be managed closely. 

‘’When he was born, they put him on my chest for a quick cuddle and then took him off to check him over. They wanted to make sure he was getting enough food and tube fed him straight away,” explained Sharon.

‘’He was a little bit small, but they said he was a good enough weight for the time he came, but other than needing to put on weight and maintain his temperature he was actually quite a fit and healthy boy,’’ she added.

Because he was born far from the family’s home in York, the hospital team were looking for a way to transfer Arlo to a hospital nearer their home.

They needed the quickest and safest option for a baby in Arlo’s condition – and that was the Children’s Air Ambulance. 

Thanks to the charity’s bespoke helicopter and the highly trained Clinical Partner Team Embrace Yorkshire and Humberside Infant and Children Transport Service (Embrace), Sharon was able to make the flight alongside her newborn.

The Children’s Air Ambulance took off on 07 November, and it took just 45 mins to make the 150-mile journey to York General Hospital.

A journey of more than three hours by road in a land ambulance would have been extremely difficult compared to the short journey the vital service was able to provide. 

‘’He was more settled in the helicopter than he was in the ambulance. If I’d had to spend three hours in a land ambulance it would have been more upsetting than 45 minutes of getting there and him being settled again,” said Sharon.

‘’It would have been a more traumatic journey. The helicopter didn’t bother him or me – he was transferred, he was there, and he was safe,” she added.

Once at York Hospital, Sharon was able to start feeding Arlo herself and he was home by the Saturday – a week after his birth.

Since Arlo’s transfer, seven years ago, he’s doing great and enjoying school.

He now has a younger brother named Enda, he was born in York in December 2020. Arlo is enjoying being a big brother, and he’s very patient and helpful looking after Enda.

Arlo has great interest in building Lego, has a talent for completing sets much higher than his age range, and coming up with his own inventions. He also still enjoys using his scooter, bike, and dancing.

In this time, the Children’s Air Ambulance has developed into the pioneering service it is today. The charity collaborated with Embrace and two other Clinical Partner Teams – Southwest Neonatal Advice and Retrieval (SoNAR) and Southampton Oxford Neonatal Transport (SONeT) – to create three bespoke state-of-the-art Neonatal Transport Systems (incubators), meaning it can fly even the smallest and most fragile of premature babies.

These incubators have been used over 70 times already this year, reducing the anxiety and worry of the parents, reducing the time taken for the infants to get the specialist support they need, and getting babies and families back together after they’ve had this specialist input, avoiding long road journeys, and reducing the time spent outside of hospital.

“As we’ve said from the beginning, the Children’s Air Ambulance were there when we needed them – getting us back to our home area after he was born prematurely while visiting family three hours away.

“We were very lucky that he had no complications. All staff members that we have met from the Children’s Air Ambulance and Embrace were great, very personable and kept us informed of what was happening to put us all at ease. We feel they both do a great job, especially when helping families in a more serious position than ourselves,” said Sharon.