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There’s never a dull moment in a family with three young boys, but one month in the winter of 2009 was even more frantic than usual.

Katharine and Andy White are the parents of Oliver, Benjamin and Alexander and they live on a farm near Wellington in Somerset.

Their twins, Ben and Alex, were just coming up for a year old and both were suffering from winter sniffles, so Katharine took them along to the doctor. Alex was prescribed antibiotics for a chest infection and Benjamin was declared all clear. Later that day, Katharine and Andy commented on the heavy snow that had started to fall. 

Overnight the snow continued to fall and by the morning, there were drifts as high as 6-8 feet around their farm house. Worryingly, Benjamin appeared exceptionally tired and certainly wasn’t his usual self. His parents kept a close eye on him but, frighteningly, Ben’s condition was deteriorating rapidly and Andy called 111 to ask for advice.

Whilst he was on the telephone, Katharine called him explaining that their baby son’s lips had gone blue and his breathing had become very shallow. The call-taker heard this exchange and immediately despatched the Devon Air Ambulance. With their farmhouse now completely cut off by the snow and Benjamin going downhill fast, the Air Ambulance was imperative.

Following instructions from the despatcher, Andy went outside wearing a bright red coat and indicated an appropriate field for the helicopter to land, where he knew the snow was less deep. The aircrew ran in and straight upstairs to see to Ben.

Within a matter of minutes, young Benjamin was prepared for the flight to Musgrove Park in Taunton along with Andy, leaving Katharine at home to continue looking after Alexander and Oliver. Landing in a playing field in Taunton, Ben and Andy were then conveyed by land ambulance for the last couple of minutes to the A&E unit at Musgrove Park Hospital.

Support young patients like Ben and Alex

Ben’s oxygen levels were really low and he was hardly breathing. Chest x-rays revealed that he had double pneumonia. He spent a week in the hospital, during which time Andy stayed with him as Katharine was still snow-bound at home. “It was really frightening at the time,” explained Andy.

It all happened incredibly fast, with Benjamin deteriorating so rapidly but we knew that there was no way a land ambulance could reach us because of the snow. Thank Goodness for the Air Ambulance: they saved Ben’s life.

Unexpectedly, less than 2 years later, when Ben was fully recovered and happily playing with his brothers in their garden, it was twin brother Alex who also needed the helicopter when he fell from their trampoline on to his head. Again, the Devon Air Ambulance came to his aid. Fortunately, he too made a full recovery.  

Katherine and Andy have supported Devon Air Ambulance in various ways over the years and this summer (2020), it was the boys who decided to say thank you in their own way. Having been tasked with coming up with a project for the school summer holidays, Benjamin and Alexander decided to do their own cycle challenge – touring the county going through towns and villages to spell out the initials of DEVON AIR AMBULANCE along the way. It was a physical and fundraising challenge, and one that took place over several days, covered 145 miles (to coincide with our new H145 helicopter) and raised a fabulous £1,346!

Andy, who cycled the routes with his boys, was proud of their achievements and said,

Alex and Benjamin have done brilliantly this summer and it’s been a great opportunity to see more of the beautiful county of Devon. As a family, we are all so indebted to Devon Air Ambulance,” he continued. “We know all too well how important the service is and, as the parents of TWO boys who have needed it, we just can’t say thank you enough.

Thank you for helping young patients like Ben and Alex by supporting our campaign this year. Your generosity helps us to continue to be there to care.

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