European Air Ambulance a world-leader in neonatal aeromedical transport – and one Dutch couple discovered this first-hand, after a three-week ‘babymoon’ turned into a three-month medical emergency.
When parents-to-be Masja and Nico headed off to enjoy a final holiday as a couple before the birth of their first child, they had no idea of the drama ahead. After two weeks camping in America’s wild national parks, they headed to Los Angeles for the last few days of their trip. But while there, despite perfect health and a complication-free pregnancy, Masja’s waters broke at just 28-weeks gestation.
Specialist hospital staff tried to delay her labour, but seven days later the baby was delivered by emergency Caesarean – a tiny girl weighing 1215g, just 37cm long, born 10 weeks early.
After two months in the neonatal ICU, the medical team were satisfied that baby Loes was well enough to make the trip home with her parents to the Netherlands. Although stable enough for transport, like all premature babies Loes remained fragile and weak. She would need intensive and continuous monitoring in transit and treatment where necessary, so the family’s insurers opted for an air ambulance repatriation.
With its experienced and highly-trained teams, and its state-of-the-art equipment and aircraft, EAA is globally renowned for its expertise in neonatal missions, carrying out dozens of flights every year from all corners of the world. So they were the natural choice to ensure Loes made it safely home.
The European Air Ambulance Control Centre, which operates 24/7/365, began planning the three-day mission. They arranged two medical teams and two flights crews for the 26.5 flight hours, plus outward and return refuelling stopovers, overflight permissions, airport handling and crew accommodation.
Within 36 hours they were ready, and after an overnight stop in Goose Bay in Canada, the first team arrived in Los Angeles where paediatrician Jean Bottu and intensive care nurse Christian Spangenberg went straight to the hospital to meet Loes and her doctors.
Dr Bottu carried out his own examination - as is the regular procedure for EAA teams - and satisfied with her condition he gave the go-ahead, transferring Loes via a transport incubator and mum Masja to the aircraft the next morning, to begin their journey to the Netherlands where they would be reunited with Nico who had flown ahead.
Loes’ condition was monitored throughout the journey, and after a stopover in Canada and a refuelling stop in Iceland – where the Northern Lights made an appearance – the second crew took over. Following a further 12 hour flight they touched down in Rotterdam where EAA’s Dr Geron and intensive care nurse Guido Genten transferred Loes to a waiting road ambulance, and took her and Masja to the hospital in their home city Delft, where Nico was waiting.
After briefing the doctors, the European Air Ambulance team said goodbye – leaving a lasting impression on the now-reunited family.
Masja said: “The entire team, the medical crew as well as the pilots, were worried about our well-being. They made me feel at home, which was so important after all that time in the US. These are the situations that show you what really matters in life.”
Neonatal transfers are challenging and carry many potential risks; but thanks to EAA’s highly-trained and experienced specialists and state-of-the-art medical equipment, the tiniest of patients can make it home safely.