Toddler Phoebe Honour was admitted to her local hospital in Margate, Kent after her mum took her to the Accident & Emergency Department with a fever and breathing difficulties.
What had been diagnosed as a virus by their GP two days before had now developed into pneumonia and the 17-month-old was very poorly. She was given a bed on the children’s ward.
Single parent Amy Honour stayed with Phoebe day and night while her older daughter Bethany (9) was looked after by relatives.
“It was so overwhelmingly scary. It was awful,” she says.
After four days on the children’s ward Phoebe appeared to be improving and she was playing in the play room. But in the early hours of the next day she had to be moved to the High Dependency Unit as her condition was deteriorating.
Fluid had collected on her right lung and it had nearly collapsed. She was struggling to breathe, her heart rate was rapid and her temperature was dangerously high.
With no paediatric intensive care facilities at the Queen Elizabeth Queen Mother Hospital in Margate it was vital that Phoebe was transferred to a hospital where she could get the specialist care she so urgently needed.
That’s where the Children’s Air Ambulance was able to help out.
The helicopter took off from our Oxford base, picked up a children’s intensive care team from South Thames Retrieval Service – based at Evelina London Children’s Hospital – and flew them to Margate.
When the STRS team arrived, Phoebe had been sedated and intubated and a ventilator was breathing for her. Her blood oxygen levels had been stabilised and she was ready to be flown to London.
“Phoebe was very calm and settled. I felt very useless and was crying and emotional as I hadn’t slept for days. But everyone made me feel involved in what was happening and explained about the flight and what they were doing to Phoebe and why, “says Amy.
She accompanied her daughter on the 30 minute flight to Battersea Heliport where the STRS intensive care ambulance was waiting to transfer them to the Evelina. It would have taken over two hours to get there by road.
“I’m not frightened of flying but I hadn’t been in a helicopter before. The pilots put me at ease. They were very friendly and concerned about how I was feeling. They explained what they were doing and made me feel involved which really helped me at the time.”
“The STRS team were also second to none with the care they gave to Phoebe and the amazing reassurance for me which made things a lot less stressful,” says Amy.
When Phoebe got to the Evelina, doctors inserted a drain into her chest to clear the fluid that had accumulated in her lung. She was kept under sedation for three days and came off the ventilator after six days.
Phoebe was discharged after spending nine days in the Evelina and she and Amy were reunited with Bethany when she accompanied her grandmother to the hospital to drive them home.
“The Children’s Air Ambulance is amazing. I think getting Phoebe to the specialist care she needed so urgently saved her and certainly improved her recovery time. She is now back to her usual self and I will always be very grateful for what they did,” says Amy.