On an ordinary Friday afternoon, an extraordinary email flew into my inbox inviting me to a garden party at Lambeth Palace hosted by HRH, the Duke of York. This was an invitation to a special event to celebrate the work of the Children's Air Ambulance and naturally, I was both humbled and delighted to accept without hesitation.
On a personal level, I had not realised that the Children's Air Ambulance existed and in case you didn't know either, they are a dedicated service for helping children all across the UK get to the care and support they need. Fast. In fact, they can get children to the care they need 4 times faster than if they were to go by road.
On arrival at Lambeth Palace, I was very much looking forward to hearing about the amazing work they do. As a mother of two young children myself, this really is the most incredible service. Especially as the charity does not receive any government funding and provides all our services free of charge. We are driven by first class professionals, supported by a small army of volunteers and rely entirely on the kindness of people to donate to help keep them flying every day.
The bespoke equipment on-board includes a specially designed stretcher system and clinical interior, incubator and extra seat for a parent to be able to accompany their child. These state of the art facilities make the helicopters second to none in the provision of paediatric and neonatal transfers.
The garden party was a fantastic way to celebrate, what has been a seven-year project for Children's Air Ambulance to provide a nationwide high-speed transfer service for critically ill babies and children came to fruition. Hosted by HRH, the Duke of York, also in attendance was an array of celebrity ambassadors including Brian May, Anita Dobson, Dr Ranj and David Seaman to name a few.
One of those who has first-hand experience of the difference the transfer service can make to the health of a critically ill child is mum Alex Dear from Kent whose daughter Edith needed specialist care at King’s College, London after an emergency operation. The Children’s Air Ambulance flew Edith the 75-mile journey from her local hospital with dad Jeff Dear accompanying her in the helicopter. The flight lasted just 33 minutes while mum Alex, who travelled by road, took over three hours to join her family. Commenting on the transfer, Alex said “Everyone was very reassuring and explained what was going to happen. They answered all our questions and we were relieved to know that she would be in good hands and be taken to the specialist post-operative care she needed as quickly as possible. We now have a real appreciation of the amazing difference the Children’s Air Ambulance makes to families like ours and we will always be grateful.”
Speaking at a ceremony to unveil the new aircraft, HRH, the Duke of York, commented “As a helicopter pilot myself, I know full well the benefits of moving patients by helicopter and how it can save lives. This is unique service it is my pleasure to support the work of The Children's Air Ambulance."
Commenting on the new aircrafts, The Children's Air Ambulance CEO, Andy Williamson said: “This is the culmination of a long and difficult journey to provide this unique service and I am very proud to see it come to fruition and of all those involved."
Pictured above with Helen Thorn, stand up comedian and Serjei Urban, The Dad Lab
For me, this was a truly humbling day. A time to reflect and supporting those who made this possible and thinking about those children who might need help in every day life threatening situations. I am so proud to offer my support to The Children's Air Ambulance and to spread the word on the wonderful work they do.
Anyone wishing to find out more about the lifesaving work of the charity can call 0300 3045 999 or visit www.childrensairambulance.org.uk