Schools & young people

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

Lucy and Bob Thompson from The Boathouse in Instow already had four children when young Joe was born. Lucy was in labour with a planned home birth when difficulties lead to her being transferred to North Devon District Hospital (NDDH). Worryingly, very soon after Joe was born it became apparent that things for the little baby were far from right.

Joe had been born with his intestines in his chest cavity and a hole in his diaphragm and, as he started to breathe, both his lungs collapsed. Unable to deal with the emergency in NDDH, a medical team was despatched to convey little Joe to Cardiff Hospital by land ambulance.

When Bob and Lucy arrived in Cardiff, the surgeon explained how they would help their baby son. Following emergency surgery, Joe spent the first 8 days of his life in Intensive Care and another week in hospital before being allowed home to meet his siblings.

Fortunately, things settled down and Joe soon caught up with his peers.

That was until he was 18 months old when he became unwell. He stopped eating and his condition rapidly deteriorated.  Convinced that this was more than ‘just a bug’ and with Joe becoming weaker before their eyes, Lucy and Bob rushed Joe to North Devon District Hospital where, on reading Joe’s notes, the doctor immediately requested the Air Ambulance.

Bob explained, “It all happened so fast. One moment we were chatting to the doctor about Joe’s symptoms, the next he was being whisked off in the helicopter for emergency surgery at Bristol Children’s Hospital. We knew he’d been really ill when he was born but this time the Air Ambulance was absolutely critical. The doctor told us that Joe would die if he didn’t get immediate treatment.”

The problem had been caused by scar tissue from his original surgery forming a seal on Joe’s stomach, causing an obstruction, so he was unable to eat. Once at Bristol, Joe spent 3 days in ITU following surgery with another week on the ward recovering.

His dad continued, “Seeing him now, it’s hard to believe that young Joe went through so much as a baby - he is now a strapping 13-year old, strong as an ox and a fearsome rugby player!”

Coincidentally, the family had another encounter with the Air Ambulance just a few years later. Bob and Lucy were on the beach with their younger children when they heard about a nasty road accident nearby. Hearing the Air Ambulance circling overhead their hearts sank as they learned that it was for Bob’s oldest daughter, Katie! Katie was airlifted to NDDH with a nasty ankle injury and, fortunately, went on to make a full recovery.  Bob said, “As you can imagine, we’re very, very grateful to everyone at Devon Air Ambulance!”

No one knows whether they will need to call upon the support of Devon Air Ambulance. We're so grateful to our supporters for the funds they raise to keep our air ambulances flying. If you would like to help then find out about fundraising and volunteering opportunities, or you can make a secure donation from this page.