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 was very different for one Exwick family in 2016, but fortunately it had a very happy ending.

With all the excitement of being on school holiday and Father Christmas due in just a few days, 8-year old Harry Tansley from Exwick was happy to be out scooting and skating along Exmouth seafront with his dad, his older brother Ben and their friend, Will. 

They were having a lovely time until, for no known reason, Harry lost his balance on his scooter and fell – with the handlebar of his scooter catching Harry’s throat as he toppled. The effect was immediate; Harry had a tear in his windpipe causing air to form under his skin with every breath he took.

First responders were quickly on scene and administered an IV drip but called for backup from Devon Air Ambulance who sent an emergency car with two aircrew paramedics and the helicopter with two further paramedics and a doctor on board.

Despite Harry’s face, chest and stomach swelling rapidly, he and his dad remained calm and Harry was able to answer questions coherently.  Paramedic John Shaddick explained, “When we arrived, Harry looked like an 8-year old body builder, he was swollen from his head to his groin. But he and his dad were both amazingly calm – Harry really was a ‘perfect patient’, particularly considering what was happening.”

Rapid response: time is everything

Treating Harry in the back of the land ambulance, Dr Reed administered an anaesthetic and a tube was inserted to stop Harry’s throat swelling shut and to keep him breathing. John Shaddick continued, “The teamwork of everyone working together was brilliant. Everyone, land crew, rapid response crew and aircrew, all knew what needed to be done, both inside and outside the ambulance. While Harry was being looked after, paramedic Nick Ratcliff advised Harry’s dad and brother what was happening and spoke to Harry’s mum, who was at work in Torquay, on the phone.

Harry was flown in the air ambulance to Bristol Children’s Hospital (BCI) and his care was taken over by specialist children’s doctors. His dad went in the aircraft too and was impressed by the speed with which they got there, “It would have taken so much longer by road. I was so grateful that Harry was in such good hands en route and that we got from Exmouth to Bristol in just 30 minutes!”

As he was gradually woken up from his induced coma on Christmas Eve, his family at his bedside were relieved to realise that his windpipe had ‘healed itself’ and there was no longer the need for surgery.

A flying visit to hospital - and back intime for Christmas

Christmas Day was made all the better with a visit from Santa Claus in the morning and, amazingly, a discharge from hospital in the afternoon. Back home in Exwick the remaining Christmas holidays remained fairly calm as Harry recovered from his ordeal.

His mum, Justine, called to say thank you, “We are just so grateful to everyone who helped Harry on 20th December.  Without the skills of all the paramedics and Dr Reed and the helicopter getting him to Bristol so quickly, things could have been so different. My husband and I have decided that we are going to run a half marathon this year to raise funds for DAA, so that the service remains available to help others when they need it. We can’t thank you all enough.”

To make a life-changing difference to people like Harry and his family, find out about  donating to Devon Air Ambulance, fundraising for us, or even volunteering a little of your time.