After a year of fundraising and the launch of its helicopter in Autumn, national lifesaving charity The Children's Air Ambulance (TCAA) has this week carried out its first transfers; flying specialist teams and equipment from Glenfield Hospital to two critically ill youngsters.
The transfers came following an announcement between TCAA and Glenfield Hospital of a partnership to facilitate a helicopter transfer system for their Extra Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) team that could potentially save the lives of many children and babies. ECMO is used when a patient has a life-threatening cardiac or respiratory condition which prevents their heart or lungs from working normally and is vital in helping to save the lives of patients suffering such conditions.
The first transfer took place on Monday 10th December, when the ECMO team was flown from Glenfield Hospital to Sheffield Children's Hospital in order to give the potentially lifesaving treatment. The transfer time in total was 34 minutes. If the team had gone by road, it would have taken 1 hour and 23 minutes. This is a huge saving in time and for babies suffering such serious illnesses, the speed at which they receive the treatment is vital in helping to save their life.
On Wednesday 12th December TCAA took an ECMO team from Leicester Glenfield Hospital to Hull Royal Infirmary. The transfer time took 35 minutes, a journey that would have taken over two hours by land. Again this drastic reduction in travel times can make an important difference in the child's chances of survival and recovery as well as easing the stress of the child's family.
Alex Toft, Director of Operations for TCAA, said: "We're extremely excited and proud to announce that we have now started transferring paediatric teams across England. We've been fundraising all year for this and it's great to see the first potentially lifesaving transfers run so smoothly.
"These are the first of many transfers that we will be carrying out with the ECMO team. They currently do approximately 50 transfers a year by road; that's at least 50 children that can receive potentially lifesaving treatment a lot quicker and hopefully by getting them there quicker it will help increase their availability to do more of this fantastic work. In cases like this, where you are dealing with our most vulnerable such as young babies, every single minute can count. "
Glenfield Hospital is the only hospital in the country to provide a mobile ECMO service for babies and children. Chris Harvey, ECMO consultant at Glenfield Hospital, said: "Children requiring ECMO are incredibly sick and to be able to reach them anywhere in the country at such speed is incredibly valuable to us."
In the New Year TCAA will begin transferring children suffering from life threatening conditions such as neurological emergencies, severe meningitis and major organ failure, from local hospitals to specialist Paediatric Intensive Care Units so that they can get the treatment they urgently need as soon as possible. In cases where children are too ill to travel, TCAA will fly the specialist care teams and equipment to the child.
The Charity is entirely funded by donations from members of the public as it receives no National Lottery or Government funding and needs to raise £134,000 per month to continue its service. It's the first and only service of its kind in England and Wales and will be helping some of the 5,800 children who need transferring to Paediatric Intensive Care Units every year.