Luxembourg, 21 August 2015 - Quick thinking and the ability to change plans at the last minute, as well as the compassion of one family for another, helped European Air Ambulance to save a baby’s life
When European Air Ambulance received a call from a client requesting immediate assistance for an emergency repatriation of a seven-month old baby from Agadir in Morocco to Strasbourg in France, the operations team had to think on their feet.
The only available aircraft in the air ambulance operator’s fleet was due to take off some two hours later to repatriate a premature baby from Spain to France. The non-emergency mission had been scheduled for a week. The LearJet 45XR aircraft waiting on the tarmac had been especially installed with an incubator and other neonatal medical equipment. A specialist medical team comprising anaesthesiologist Dr. David A. Sinclair, paediatrician Katja Ihmann (who is specialised in neonatology) and flight nurse Julien Henrichs, who is trained in advanced paediatric life support, were also ready for take off.
But the Morocco situation required an immediate response. The baby had survived a car crash involving a truck while on holiday with its family. Despite being strapped in, the baby had been thrown from the vehicle on impact, and it had suffered cerebral hematoma, fracture of the skull, lacerations and was also experiencing shock, anaemia and renal insufficiency.
The hospital in Agadir did not have the adequate medical equipment to treat the baby, and closest hospital was in Casablanca – which would involve a 500km road journey that was simply not an option.
European Air Ambulance decided the best and quickest option was to delay by one day the repatriation of the baby in Spain, allowing its neonatal team to depart on the mission to Agadir aboard the especially equipped LearJet. EAA contacted the assistance company that had requested the repatriation of the baby in Spain to explain the situation and request the delay. When the family in Spain were told that they would be saving another child’s life, they immediately agreed to delay the mission to fly their baby to France.
By this time the EAA medical team had already been in contact with the hospital in Agadir and had received a briefing on the latest medical condition of the patient. The flight to Morocco took off at less than three hours after EAA first received the request for assistance. It landed in Morocco three hours later and the team was at the hospital in Agadir one hour after touch down.
The medical team found the baby in better condition than expected, but still extremely critical. In addition to the injuries reported by the hospital, it had also suffered a humeral fracture that had not been diagnosed. The team first put a new IV in place, then administered painkillers and fluids. The baby’s situation could be stabilized and vital signs improved slightly. After consultation with the team from the local hospital, the EAA medical team decided not to intubate the baby - the advantages of spontaneous breathing outweighed the inability to monitor the baby’s breathing.
The baby was transported safely back to the airfield and loaded into the aircraft. The LearJet’s flexible configuration allowed the baby’s mother to accompany the baby as a passenger on the flight back to Strasbourg (the father and baby’s brother flew back on a commercial flight the following day).
While the medical team carefully monitored the baby’s vital signs – as well as checking pupils and ensuring that it was sufficiently hydrated - the aircraft made a slow climb to 13,000 metres for the flight to France. The team landed in Strasbourg less than 12 hours after the mission was given the green light and the baby was transported to local hospital, where medical staff had been briefed by EAA, via ground ambulance.
When the baby arrived at the CHU hospital in Strasbourg it was in a much more stable condition. Following excellent care in France, the baby was eventually discharged and the family is now reunited at home. A touching end to a drama that required quick thinking, a wealth of experience and compassion.