“It was incredibly surreal seeing him wheeled out and put on the helicopter and then watching him fly off. But the retrieval team and helicopter crew were lovely; they encouraged us to take photos. And the retrieval team said once he landed he would stay sedated, so wouldn’t know we weren’t there which was comforting.” (Rachel, Alfie’s mum.)
It was during a family holiday in Turkey that Rachel and Jamie Stacey first realised something was wrong with their beautiful baby Alfie.
He was having huge problems breathing, and when they picked Alfie up to comfort him, he would scream and push them away. Distressed and fraught with worry, they took him to a local hospital, where he was put on a drip and given oxygen.
Fortunately, Alfie recovered well, but his condition worsened once again when they were home. Over the next few months, baby Alfie would be in and out of hospital, and contracting a cold would end up in poor Alfie being unable to breathe properly.
After an even more traumatic night in hospital, his breathing became so laboured he had to be put on a ventilator. Alfie now desperately needed to be moved to a specialist hospital so he could get the best possible treatment.
In his hour of need, the Children’s Air Ambulance came to his aid. In only 15 minutes Alfie, only 9 months old now, was transferred from Worthing Hospital to London’s Evelina Children’s Hospital over 60 miles away.
The same journey took his worried parents more than two hours by road.
The experience was an emotional one for mum and dad. Seeing Alfie on a ventilator left them upset and distressed, and when they were parted from their son as he was flown away by helicopter it really tugged at their heartstrings.
They knew the transfer by the Children’s Air Ambulance was absolutely vital to his recovery, and it’s something for which they will always be grateful.
Once he was in London, Alfie was looked after by the incredible intensive care team at Evelina Children’s Hospital. After a couple of distressing days, he was finally well enough to be taken off the ventilator and gradually his condition improved until he was well enough to be sent home to West Sussex.
Sadly, this was not Alfie’s last visit to hospital and when he became poorly again the specialist team at Evelina knew that there was something more serious going on.
A bronchoscopy revealed a blood vessel from his heart was compressing his trachea. This meant that each time he got ill, his airways got narrower. And on December 21st he was given an aortopexy, helping relieve the pressure on his trachea.
This life saving surgery was effective, and Alfie was discharged from hospital on December 23rd – just in time for the family’s first beautiful Christmas together. Alfie is now 18 months old, and although he does now have asthma, he’s doing well and is just like any other little boy. Full of joy and energy.
With your help and support, no matter how small, the Children’s Air Ambulance can be there for more little patients like Alfie. Supporting and taking them to wherever they need to be, quicker and safer, in our hands.
Rachel said: “I don’t think people know there is not an intensive care for children in local hospitals, you just assume they can be looked after there, you don’t realise they’ll have to move. If I saw the pilots now I would say thank you for looking after him when we weren’t there and getting him to intensive care so quickly.”