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Newtonmore baby girl’s crucial flight is the longest distance a patient has been flown by Children’s Air Ambulance

By Ian Duncan

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When a severely disabled 13-month-old girl had to be transferred from a central London hospital to another 570 miles away in Inverness there were risks associated with the journey.

For the safety of little Evelyn Dennison White, from Newtonmore, it was crucial she got from one place to the other as quickly and directly as possible.

Evelyn was born by emergency caesarean section and suffered brain damage caused by oxygen deprivation and limited blood flow.

She has since been diagnosed with cerebral palsy and epilepsy, is visually and hearing impaired, as well as tube-fed.

Evelyn Dennison White on the flight with mum Grace.
Evelyn Dennison White on the flight with mum Grace.

The Children’s Air Ambulance (CAA), working with clinical partners from South Thames Retrieval Service (STRS), transferred Evelyn and her mum Grace from Evelina Children’s Hospital to Raigmore Hospital in just four hours – compared to a road journey by car or ambulance of nine-and-a-half hours with no traffic delays.

Grace said: “I am so happy that Evelyn went to Scotland on the Children’s Air Ambulance. Her condition could have deteriorated during a long road journey and the doctors said it would not be safe for her to travel by car or land ambulance.

"On the helicopter, she was accompanied by paediatric specialists from STRS who constantly monitored her, and we flew directly to hospital where she was checked on arrival and spent five days before coming home.

“My husband Tom and I really appreciate that the option of being transferred by air was available to us and we are very grateful.”

Getting Evelyn on board ahead of take-off from London for onwards bound flight to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness.
Getting Evelyn on board ahead of take-off from London for onwards bound flight to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness.

The transfer in June, earlier this year, was the longest distance a patient has been flown by the charity since it began operating in May 2013.

Planning the flight was complex due to differences that can often occur in the weather between London and Inverness.

But on the day conditions meant that the transfer was completed as quickly as possible with only one stop to refuel at Teesside Airport near Darlington.

The CAA took off from its base at Oxford Airport and flew to the landing pad at King’s College Hospital in London to meet the team from STRS who accompanied Evelyn and Grace in a land ambulance for the three-mile journey from Evelina Hospital – where there is nowhere for helicopters to land.

London viewed from the north bound air ambulance.
London viewed from the north bound air ambulance.

Since Evelyn’s birth in a Cairo Hospital in April 2020, Grace and Tom have not only had to cope with Evelyn’s complex medical condition and needs but the administrative challenges of moving from Egypt during a worldwide pandemic – first to temporary homes in Buckinghamshire and London and then to Newtonmore where they now live.

Grace had been working as a teacher and Tom had a job in marketing in Egypt for four years before they came back to the UK after the birth.

She said: “We had to get an emergency passport for her to fly back home with us then go into two weeks’ quarantine and during that time try to get her registered with the National Health Service for her ongoing treatment.”

Since their arrival in the UK in August, last year, family life for the Dennison Whites has been dominated by numerous medical appointments and periods when Evelyn has been admitted to hospital for planned and emergency treatment.

Immediately before the air transfer to the Highlands she had been admitted to the Evelina Hospital with breathing difficulties caused by a respiratory tract infection and for an operation to have her tonsils and adenoids removed.

Heading homewards.
Heading homewards.

Grace said: “After the logistical nightmare of getting back to the UK and continual challenges we face with Evelyn’s health and treatment, thanks to the Children’s Air Ambulance getting our daughter from London to Scotland was relatively stress-free and happened just as we were told it would.

“What could have been the last straw scenario in the 14-month rollercoaster of events we had dealt with, was made safe and simple by the involvement of the Children’s Air Ambulance working with the team from STRS.

"It is an amazing charity, and we are happy to share our experience to help raise awareness of the work they do.”

Since Evelyn’s helicopter flight she has had a couple of short spells in hospital but is now doing well at home where Grace and Tom have all the medical equipment they need to support their daughter’s needs.

Grace said: “Evelyn loves attention and particularly likes people singing or reading to her.

"Her favourite thing is being in the water during her hydrotherapy sessions, and she enjoys different atmospheres when we take her out especially to coffee shops.”

She and Tom are very thankful that the Children’s Air Ambulance was available to help get their daughter home safely to Scotland.

Grace said: “The charity receives no government funding and relies totally on donations and fundraising to pay for each transfer which costs £3,500. Having benefited from the service provided by the Children’s Air Ambulance we urge anybody who is able to support this very worthy cause to do so.”

• For further information on the charity, please visit here or call 0300 3045 999.

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