Family praise Welsh Air Ambulance after life saving response saves toddler

CHRISTMAS will be extra special for Jess and Jamie Howells this year, as they celebrate their son Jack’s third Christmas – something they feared they would not see nine months ago after Jack suffered a catastrophic head injury.

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In February, every parent’s worst nightmare came true when 13-month-old Jack toppled over and hit his head on the floor.

At first, Jess, 29, and Jamie, 36, of Carmarthenshire, put it down to a typical toddler accident and thought he would feel better after a few kisses and cuddles. Jess’s intuition told her that something was wrong, and soon after, Jack became disorientated and tired, so they immediately decided to take him to A&E to get checked over.

Unfortunately, while on route, Jack took a dramatic turn for the worse and he started vomiting, so they pulled over and immediately dialled 999. His condition deteriorated rapidly, and Jack continued being sick and became pale, floppy, and unresponsive.

Llanelli First Responders and paramedics were called, and due to the severity of Jack’s condition, called for the support of Wales Air Ambulance.

The adverse weather that day meant the critical care teams were operating out of the Charity’s fleet of rapid response vehicles, instead of the helicopters.

On arrival, Dr Mike, and Critical Care Practitioner Rhyan, were worried that Jack had a bleed on the brain. To protect his brain and to give him the best possible chance of survival, the crew gave Jack a general anaesthetic, medication to help minimise the bleed and placed him on a ventilator to control his breathing.

Jess said: “As parents, what we were experiencing was something that would only happen in a nightmare. We gave him a kiss so that he knew we were with him, and it was at that point that we saw the tiny neonatal ventilator kit. Jack looked so small and fragile.

“We were unable to travel with Jack but received a police escort. We didn’t know if he would survive and before setting off, they gave us an opportunity to say goodbye. The journey seemed like the longest of our lives.

“I still remember how cold I felt, which obviously would have been down to the shock. When we arrived in the University of Wales Hospital in Cardiff, we had no idea if our baby boy had survived the journey or not.

“We were greeted by a room full of staff ready and prepared to treat our baby. Jack looked so small when he was being wheeled in on an adult sized trolley. He was covered in so many tubes and wires that from further away you would have thought they were just wheeling in a trolley of equipment, but our boy was amongst it all, fighting for his life.”

Jack had suffered a large bleed on the brain and had fractured his skull and required emergency neurosurgery.

Jess said: “Thankfully, the operation was a success, but Jack was not yet out of the woods and was treated in intensive care. We didn’t know whether Jack would suffer long-term brain damage.
“Initially we were told Jack would likely be sedated and ventilated for 72 hours to allow his brain some time to heal.

“However, within 48 hours, Jack was off sedation, awake and off the ventilator. It took him a long time to fully wake up but when he eventually opened his eyes, the first thing he said despite swelling to his vocal cords from the ventilator, was ‘mam’. It was such a relief to hear him speak and emotional that he still knew who I was.

Jack continued to thrive and is reaching all his milestones.

Jess said: “It is going to be a busy and emotional December. We have Jack’s birthday and several Christmas activities planned as well as a special family Christmas – which is going to be extra special this year.

“To think we may not have been able to celebrate Jack’s second birthday and Christmas doesn’t bear thinking about. It could have been so different for us, and we are so lucky we still have our little boy here. We will forever be indebted to the Wales Air Ambulance.

“Jack is definitely going to be spoilt and it’s going to be lovely as he will be spending time with his two half-sisters as well, but I am sure we will all be reflecting how fortunate we are.

“He is a typical little boy, who loves cars, trains and now helicopters. He is always on the go and
smiling.”

Both Jess and Jamie, of Drefach near Cross Hands, have benefited from the Wales Air Ambulance’s Aftercare Service, in particular speaking to Patient Liaison Nurse, Jo Yeoman.

Jess said: “Jo has been wonderful, and it has been good to know the series of events, especially as everything seems such a blur. It is great that the Wales Air Ambulance has been there for us following Jack’s accident and it has gradually helped me come to terms what happened. It was lovely for us to meet Mike and express our gratitude personally and for him to see how Jack has come through.”

Jo Yeoman, Patient Liaison Nurse, said: “My role as Patient Liaison Nurse is to support patients and their families after what is usually a very sudden and life altering event. I meet and talk with astounding families every day; Jack’s family being one of them.

“The treatments Jack received would usually only be available within a hospital setting, but thanks to the advanced clinicians onboard Wales Air Ambulance, he received lifesaving treatments on scene.

“We are delighted to see how well Jack has recovered and hope he has the most magical Christmas.”

The air ambulance service in Wales is delivered via a unique Third Sector and Public Sector Partnership. The Wales Air Ambulance Charity relies on public donations to raise the £11.2 million required every year to keep the helicopters in the air and rapid response vehicles on the road.

The Emergency Medical Retrieval and Transfer Service (EMRTS) supplies highly skilled NHS consultants and critical care practitioners who work on board the Charity’s vehicles.

Jess added: “Many people don’t realise that the Wales Air Ambulance is a Charity, and although we’ve been supporters for many years, we never imagined that one day, we would need the service and would save our little boy’s life.

“Wales Air Ambulance has given us the greatest gift of all this Christmas. They have given us Jack and have given him a future.

“Whilst we will be spending the festive season together as a family, creating memories which may have not been possible without the Charity, we’ll also be thinking of those who give up their Christmas to help others.”

The Charity has today launched their Christmas Appeal, Jack’s Christmas Wish, which has been supported by The Howells Family.

Jess said: “From now on, every Christmas Eve, when Jack is looking up at the sky for Santa and his reindeers, he’ll be looking for the Wales Air Ambulance helicopter too, knowing they helped save his life.

“Many children will ask Santa for toys, but it is Jack’s Christmas wish that the Charity can continue saving lives and helping people.

“Please help to make his Christmas wish come true and donate to this lifesaving service. You never know when you or your loved ones might need them.”

If you would like to support the Charity and help them save more lives like Jack’s this Christmas, you can donate by visiting walesairambulance.com/achristmaswish.

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