When one-year-old Alice suffered a severe febrile convulsion, she was airlifted to hospital by DSAA. Her mum shares their story...

The incident

22nd July, a week after her first birthday, Alice was unwell. It was a Sunday, so I took her to the out of hours doctor at Shaftesbury  Hospital, where they discovered she had a double ear infection. We were sent home with some antibiotics, however, when I went to get Alice out of the car, I realised something was wrong. Her eyes were open, but she was shaking and wasn’t responding. I took her inside and called for my husband Ben.

He saw her and suggested that she was possibly having a febrile convulsion, something that runs in his side of the family. As a child he had them, his nephews had them and his brother sadly died from complications following a convulsion aged just four. Febrile convulsions are fits that normally last around five minutes and can occur when a young child has a temperature. Although they are often harmless, they are very frightening to witness.

The arrival of help

We placed Alice on the bed and took off some of her clothes to try and cool her down. Shortly after, she stopped fitting and came to but still wasn’t right. We called the out of hours doctor who was very calm and reassuring and told me that an ambulance was on the way. We ended up with four paramedics in attendance and by the time they arrived, Alice was fitting again. I will never forget the sight of our tiny baby lying on the floor, with the paramedics working on her and trying everything they could to help her. I felt so helpless.

Ben was in another room with our other two children, trying to occupy them and protect them from the horror that was going on in the lounge. After 40 minutes, one of the paramedics stopped and looked at the others and said “helicopter?”, they all agreed. I remember going through in total shock to tell my husband and children that Alice and I would be airlifted to hospital, though I wasn’t sure where.

We were taken by ambulance to the playing field at Blandford Leisure Centre where the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance were already waiting. People had lined the field, watching. The crew came to meet us and were very good at explaining exactly what was going to happen. I was taken to the helicopter first, shown to my seat and given a set of headphones to wear.

The helicopter trip

Once I was settled, they started to bring Alice over. The expressions on the faces of onlookers was something I’ll never forget. Alice’s little, seemingly lifeless body was brought over and placed on a stretcher inside the aircraft. The crew got into their places, performed safety checks and the helicopter started up. I held Alice’s tiny hand as one of the crew gave me a smile and checked I was ok; they were all so lovely.

We took off and headed over the rooftops out towards a patchwork of fields and all the worried faces on the ground became smaller and smaller. The crew were still working on Alice trying to get her to respond. She had stopped convulsing, but it didn’t matter what they tried, she didn’t respond. I remember one of the crew putting his fingers towards her open eyes and he even touched her eyelashes but still nothing. Tears streamed down my face, I had to look out of the window as I couldn’t bear it. I thought that she had died but they didn’t want to tell me while we were in the helicopter. Suddenly there was a voice in my ears and one of the crew spoke to reassure me that she was ok. I smiled and cried at the same time; he reached out and squeezed my hand and told me that we would be at Dorset County Hospital in Dorchester very soon.

Arriving at hospital

We arrived at the hospital and were met by a team of medics who rushed us through to the emergency department, while the helicopter crew handed over our history to the team. Once handed over, the air ambulance crew said goodbye and left us in the hands of the staff at the hospital.

Alice was still seemingly lifeless, so they inserted a cannula to try and take blood from her. They squeezed and pulled her arm and suddenly she started fighting back; she obviously didn’t like that very much. I have never been so happy to hear a baby cry! They managed to take blood and complete various tests and she slowly came to. Alice was admitted to the Kingfisher ward for observation as it was still not clear what had caused her to have such a prolonged febrile convulsion, or if there was any lasting damage as a result.

I’m happy to say that we only stayed in hospital for one night and follow-up appointments with the paediatrician have suggested that there is no lasting brain damage. Alice is now a happy and healthy eight-year-old and fortunately can’t remember a thing about it,  unlike me!

We are so grateful to the DSAA team and feel very fortunate to have been looked after by them, they are all amazing! I wanted to share our story to help raise awareness of the fantastic work that they do and to ask others, where possible, to give whatever they can to help
keep this incredible service running!

Thank you so much from Lucy and Alice.

NEXT: Braham's Story

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