WHEN doctors at the local hospital had done all that they could to treat St Ives baby Theo – who was on a ventilator after having difficulties breathing – it was imperative that he got to a specialist Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) quickly.
Since being born six weeks early on 08 February 2023, and with an infection in his lungs, Theo had been struggling with apnoea (a condition that makes someone stop breathing for a short time) as a newborn.
On Friday 03 March 2023, Theo’s mum Bethany noticed that he sounded chesty and congested, and on the arrival of dad Kieren from work, Theo had become even more lethargic and pale, which worried the first-time parents.
“We could tell that Theo wasn’t himself. I had been told earlier in the day that his observations were stable but, if we were still concerned, we should take him to hospital – and because of our gut instinct we decided to take him.”
They arrived at a busy Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro- worried they wouldn’t get seen in good time. They went to paediatric A&E where Theo was triaged, and he was quickly taken away to the Resuscitation Department in a critical condition.
“It was all such a shock, we had just arrived, and the clinician had asked if he was usually this pale, took him from his car seat, pushed the ‘resus button’, and whisked him away.”
Bethany and Kieren followed through to the Resuscitation Department where they stood scared as they watched doctors and nurses surrounding their baby boy – working hard to help him breathe.
“They worked on him for what seemed like forever. They tried to make him breathe for himself, but it wasn’t working so they decided to intubate him and put him onto a ventilator to help him.”
It became clear that Theo needed specialist care at a PICU facility, so they stayed in an adult Intensive Care Unit (ICU) overnight, and in the morning Bethany and Kieren were told that he needed to be transferred St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, London, as the hospital in Truro isn’t equipped to support small babies in this situation.
This is where the Children’s Air Ambulance made a critical difference.
The helicopter took off from its base in Oxford and flew to Bristol to pick up a specialist retrieval team from Wales and West Acute Transport for Children Service (WATCh), flew down to Treliske to collect Theo and then flew onto London.
“It was a strange feeling because it’s getting him the care quickly, but to such a faraway place from home, and as we’re new to being parents, it was terrifying.”
However, her fears were soon allayed as she explains:
“Alfie (TCAA Head of Operations) and the WATCh team sat down with me to tell me what was going to happen, and really put my mind at ease – It was my first time flying so I was incredibly grateful for the team making me feel so relaxed.
“It felt like the weight was lifted off my shoulders. They may have been strangers at that moment in time, but they knew exactly what they were doing so I was confident handing my baby over to them.”
Bethany was able to travel in the helicopter with Theo, but Kieren needed to travel by train. It took just two hours and three minutes to fly the vital journey, compared with a road and train journey of five hours.
When they arrived at St Mary’s Hospital in London, the WATCh team took Theo into the ICU and stabilised him.
Theo and his parents ended up staying there for about a week. They learnt that Theo had suffered from Bronchiolitis and Rhino-enterovirus, and because he was so little, his body’s way of coping was to stop breathing.
Theo finished a course of antibiotics and is now doing well. Thankfully it isn’t re-occurring, and it shouldn’t affect him in the future.
“He’s such a smiley baby and, he’s just the best. I hadn’t heard of the Children’s Air Ambulance until we needed them, and we are so grateful for the service they provided.
“They saved my baby, and we couldn’t be more grateful. The hard work the team do there makes such a difference.”
To show her gratitude, Bethany – along with her family and friends – has decided to undertake the charity’s national Superhero Challenge.
“This month we will be running/walking the 268 miles that we travelled by helicopter to raise money for this amazing charity.
“They rely on public donations and support to be able to help many other babies and young children all over the UK. Each journey costs around £3,500, but every penny counts for such an inspiring and selfless charity like the Children’s Air Ambulance.
“We will be forever grateful for what they did for us, just as much as they will be grateful for any support for them.”
To support Bethany’s Superhero Challenge for TCAA, please donate to her JustGiving page.
For those wishing to learn more and sign up to join the Superhero Challenge, please visit: www.childrensairambulance.org.