Schools & young people

A site for young people, parents, teachers and group leaders to learn about and get involved in supporting Devon Air Ambulance

Christmas is such an exciting time of the year and most families look forward with eager anticipation to the opening of presents, playing with new toys and sharing a special time with family and friends. With four young children in the house, the Downing family home in Bradworthy was no exception, until events took a drastic turn.

Six-year old Maisie, 4 year old Eden and 3 year old twins Minnie and Freddie were all thrilled with their presents from Santa. Mum, Andrea and dad Simon were happily organising everything for a big family lunch with grandparents and other family members all due.

Everything changed, however, when Maisie came running down the stairs saying that her little brother Freddie had just fallen out of the bedroom window. Unable to believe what she had heard, Andrea ran outside, with her heart in her mouth.

Freddie was lying on this tummy on the patio, moving and crying, having fallen about 20 feet. Andrea gingerly picked him up, while Simon called 999. It appeared that Freddie had only minor grazes but his parents were concerned that he was very distressed and struggling to open his eyes.

The Air Ambulance arrived from Eaglescott within minutes of the call; paramedics Mark Langley and Glenn Birtwisle were immediately concerned Freddie may have fractured his skull. As Andrea prepared to go in the helicopter with her young son, she said goodbye to her three daughters, knowing they would be looked after by family while Simon drove to Derriford Hospital in Plymouth.

Freddie was observed during the flight to Derriford where, on arrival, tests revealed that as well as clots on the brain, he had also suffered a seizure.  Freddie urgently needed to be conveyed to Frenchay Hospital for specialist treatment but, with Eagelscott aircraft already deployed to another patient, it was the Exeter aircraft who conveyed Freddie to Bristol.

Andrea expressed her fears, “It was all so terrifying,” she explained, “We’d been having such a lovely day and were excited about all the family joining us for lunch. But Freddie’s accident changed everything. His condition was absolutely critical when we arrived at Frenchay Hospital, we were so frightened.”

Freddie was rushed straight through for surgery and his life hung in the balance for the next few days with monitors constantly checking the pressure on his brain. He then developed a lung infection and was transferred to Bristol Children’s Hospital (BCI) where, after further treatment, fortunately, he finally started to improve.

On New Year’s Eve, almost a full week since the accident, staff at BCI felt they could start to wake Freddie up. To Andrea and Simon’s absolute delight, he opened his eyes and recognised his mum and dad. Whilst still attached to drips and monitors for days to come, his condition continued to improve, much to the delight of his whole family. He was finally discharged from hospital on 12th January when, as Andrea explained, “The whole community in Bradworthy breathed a sigh of relief.”

Freddie is now a fit and healthy 8-year old schoolboy, with a passion for football.  His parents say they will never forget that Christmas. “We are still so grateful to everyone who helped us, to both the aircrews who flew those mercy missions and to all the staff in the hospitals.” 

We're always delighted to hear when patients go on to make great recoveries, but because of patient confidentiality we only hear from about 15% of those we airlift. Do you have a story you'd like to share? We'd love to hear from you.