'Copter crew in 540-mile mercy dash

AN AIR sea rescue team from Suffolk was scrambled on a 540 mile mercy dash to help cope with a rare medical emergency involving a new-born baby in Ireland.

By John Howard

AN AIR sea rescue team from Suffolk was scrambled on a 540 mile mercy dash to help cope with a rare medical emergency involving a new-born baby in Ireland.

The RAF Sea King crew from Wattisham Airfield, near Needham Market, was called into action yesterday when the premature baby had to be airlifted from Dublin to Leicester so her blood could be oxygenated with specialist equipment.

The crew of four took off at 1.40am, flying to the Leicester Glenfield Hospital to collect a specialist team and then on to an RAF base at Anglesey to refuel.


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They then flew on to Dublin to collect the baby, back to the Leicester to drop off a doctor and two nurses and the baby, and then returned to Wattisham more than nine hours later, at 10.30am.

Flt Lt Dave Kay, captain of the Sea King, explained: "The trip was about 270 miles each way and we only got a little more than an hour's sleep.

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"Getting out of Wattisham, the weather was quite bad, the cloud had come down. We had ten tonnes of helicopter, four air crew, a doctor, two nurses, an incubator the size of a small car and in the middle of it all this tiny pink baby.

"She was three days old and the reason we were all there is I do not believe there was anywhere in the Irish Republic that could do this, which was why we brought her back to England.

"We get something like this happen once a month, although it is unusual to go so far over to another country.

"But this is something we have planned for, it's what we are here for at the end of the day, it's not a problem.

"In this case the air ambulance was not big enough to carry the equipment and the medical team. We are.

"The baby seems fine, it's rewarding making a difference. Our role was to be the transport for the medical team.''

Other crew members on board the Sea King were co-pilot Flt Lt John Tipper, winch operator Sgt David Watson and winchman master air crew Nick Petch.

A spokeswoman for University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust confirmed the baby had been taken to Leicester's Glenfield Hospital, but could not comment further.

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