Our time-critical inter-hospital paediatric transfer service has been running since 2020. Since then, Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance (DSAA) has undertaken 15 transfers of time-critical children to specialist care centres across the South West. At 13 years old, James Clark was one of them.

It was Christmas morning in 2020. James woke up early being violently sick; it was black in colour. We immediately called an ambulance and James was rushed into St. Mary’s Hospital on the Isle of Wight where we live. While he was in A&E, they quickly realised that he had a ruptured appendix and a potential bowel perforation.

James has a heart condition called Tetralogy of Fallot, which he had repaired at Southampton Children’s Hospital when he was little. He also has DiGeorge Syndrome; a condition that can cause a range of problems, including heart defects and learning difficulties. That is why he finds it difficult to express himself at times.

James needed an urgent operation. He would also need monitoring on intensive care, both before and after the procedure (a service that St. Mary’s do not have for children on the Isle of Wight). The surgical team at Southampton were consulted and they wanted to perform the operation that evening. With the addition of no ferry services operating due to it being Christmas Day, the hospital team arranged for Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance to come and collect James and transfer him by air.

We were so relieved when Dr Phil Hyde and Critical Care Practitioner Matt Sawyer arrived, however, we were terrified, as we knew that it was critical to get him to hospital on time. Together, they prepared James for his transfer; they were so caring and kind and explained everything they were doing.

As only one person could accompany James on the aircraft, his dad Nicholas went with him. While in flight, they tried to keep James occupied by showing him things out of the window. The flight was extremely quick and once they arrived at Southampton, he was taken straight down to have a three- hour operation. I am so pleased to say that it was successful.

Subsequent contact with Jo Petheram, DSAA’s Patient and Family Liaison Nurse, was really helpful. She followed up on James’s recovery and provided the names of the team that helped him. James remembers their kindness and he sent a card to them all to say thank you.

Without the time-critical inter-hospital paediatric transfer service that Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance provides, things could have been very different. We can’t bear to think what could have happened without it and want to thank Phil, Matt and the amazing Pilot Mario Carretta who worked that day. DSAA is a truly life-saving service and you do such an amazing job; we will be eternally grateful. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Sharon, Nicholas and James xxx

Read more about our time-critical inter-hospital paediatric transfer service

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