In his own words: Harry, 13, on urgent air ambulance flight to hospital

Harry being transported to the aircraft. Picture: Children's Air Ambulance

Harry being transported to the aircraft. Picture: Children's Air Ambulance - Credit: Archant

A 13-year-old boy's account of being rushed to hospital by air ambulance saw him shortlisted for a national award.

Harry Younge was shortlisted for The Air Ambulance Service's award for creativity, after being helped by the Children's Air Ambulance.

The Wiggenhall St Germans youngster was flown by air ambulance twice in four weeks at the height of the Covid pandemic, with his heart condition meaning he had to be transferred from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) in Lynn to Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) in London urgently.

Harry, who also has dyslexia, had a heart transplant in June last year and is making excellent progress.

When he was 12, he wrote a 1,600-word essay about his experience - and we have, with his permission, included his writing in full below.

Harry in flight. Picture: Children's Air Ambulance

Harry in flight. Picture: Children's Air Ambulance - Credit: Archant

My experience with the Children’s Air Ambulance by Harry Younge

My name is Harry Younge and in May and June 2020 I had to be flown from the QEH in King's Lynn to GOSH in London because I wasn’t well.

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I had a heart condition called Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM). I was fitted with a device called an ICD (a small defibrillator) which was inside my chest. I needed to have this device to keep me safe and correct abnormal heart rhythms called arrythmias that could be very dangerous.

I had been very well for a few years but last year I became quite poorly and I needed to be transferred from one hospital to the other quickly. It was safer for me to travel by air than by road - that journey could take three hours from where I live in Norfolk, so I travelled by air with the Children’s Air Ambulance and the CATS team.

The CATS team are the Children’s Acute Transport Service. They are doctors and nurses who take care of children during their journey to hospital by land ambulance or by air ambulance. This is my story.

I found out I would be going to GOSH in the Children’s Air Ambulance when I was in the QEH, my local hospital. I had been taken there because that morning I didn’t feel well and my ICD had gone off, it needed to shock my heart.

A doctor came to my bed and spoke to my mum and said that it would be safer and quicker if I travelled by air. GOSH was where my heart team were. I know them very well and they knew all about me and my heart condition. I had been there lots of times before. I can remember being very upset because I was very afraid. I had never been in a helicopter before and I didn’t like flying that much.

I never liked flying even when I went on holiday so I wasn’t really excited at the idea and I was also worried about my ICD. It had never shocked before and I was worried that it was going to happen again. Everyone was telling me to be calm but it was very difficult. I stared to get very upset.

I was worried that the helicopter would make me feel dizzy or that it would go too fast and make me feel sick. The doctor explained all about the air ambulance and why it was better for me to go by air. She said that my mum could come with me so I wouldn’t be in the helicopter and not know anyone, she could be with me for the whole journey.

So I agreed to go by air. The CATS team arrived. They were so friendly and they made me feel comfortable and calm too. They had to prepare me for the flight and they explained everything they were doing and why they needed to do it.

We left the hospital – I was on a bed because I was attached to a heart monitor and I was pushed outside to the helipad. This is where the helicopter lands. The Children’s Air Ambulance was already there waiting for us. The pilots introduced themselves and asked me my name.

The Children's Air Ambulance had launched a summer fundraising campaign on July 7. 

The Children's Air Ambulance. - Credit: Children's Air Ambulance

They asked me if I had ever been in a helicopter before and I said no. They knew I was very anxious so they spoke to me and explained that it was very safe and that the weather was a nice day to fly. They also said that I would be given a headset because once the helicopter engine started up and we started to take off, it would be very noisy.

The headset would take away the noise of the helicopter and allow me to hear everyone and talk to everyone onboard. They also said that it can be very shaky but that is normal and soon stops once we are in the air. Once I was calmer, my bed was pushed into the helicopter. My mum had a seat facing me so I could see her and some of the CATS team all of the time. The CATS all got into their seats and we were all given our headsets.

My ICD had to be turned off for the journey so the monitors told the CATS team what was happening with my heart, giving them all the information they needed while we were up in the air. They set up everything they needed so that we could start the journey, explaining to me all the time what they were doing.

We were all set to go. As the helicopter blades started spinning, it started shaking. The pilots were talking to me, my mum held my hand and the CATS team were keeping me calm and relaxed. The helicopter was lifting off the ground and before I knew it, we were in the air. At first the pilots said that the headsets were off for take off but soon enough we could all talk to each other.

Harry being loaded onto the aircraft. Picture: Children's Air Ambulance

Harry being loaded onto the aircraft. Picture: Children's Air Ambulance - Credit: Archant

The pilots asked me if I could see my house. I couldn’t see everything because I was lying down on the bed, but I could see some of the view and it was amazing. Houses and cars and roads. Everything so small. The CATS team would often give me and mum a thumbs up or say that everything looked great, that there was nothing to worry about.

As we got into our journey to London, I realised that being in the children’s air ambulance wasn’t bad at all. It was actually really good and it did mean that I would get to GOSH and my team much quicker than in an ambulance by road. I have been in one of those too and the sirens are very very noisy. The air ambulance was calming, I closed my eyes and relaxed.

We were going to land in Regents Park in London because GOSH doesn’t have a helipad. The pilots said that we would soon be landing. As we got to the park and the helicopter started to get lower it started to get shaky again. The CATS team, my mum and the pilots were telling me that it was sunny and that there were people in the park.

As we got closer and closer to the ground, I could see the people. We landed. It was really smooth and not a thump down on the ground how I thought it might be. Once the blades stopped and the engine stopped, the doors opened and the CATS team and pilots started to get my bed out. I was amazed at how many people stood in the park watching and taking photographs.

Harry being transported on the aircraft. Picture: Children's Air Ambulance

Harry being transported on the aircraft. Picture: Children's Air Ambulance - Credit: Archant

I laughed and said ‘I feel like a celebrity, it’s a shame I have got my pyjamas on’. Everyone laughed. The pilots asked me what I thought of the air ambulance and asked me how there flying was? I laughed and said they were very good drivers. We thanked them very much and they wished me good luck.

My bed was put into the ambulance and me, mum and the CATS team carried on the rest of the journey to GOSH in the ambulance where I was taken CICU (Cardiac Intensive Care Unit) The CATS team said goodbye and wished me luck. They were very nice and very kind. They helped to feel relaxed and safe.

Eventually I was moved to Bear Ward. That’s the cardiac ward in GOSH. I already knew lots of the staff there. They are so friendly and make your hospital stay much nicer. They have play specialists and games and they try to keep all the children as happy as possible during their stay. Its sometimes very difficult because if you are in GOSH, it’s because you are poorly and it’s not always easy to be cheerful when you feel poorly.

I spent a long time in GOSH and eventually I had a heart transplant. While I was on Bear Ward I decided that I would like to do something to help other children who might be in a situation like me and need to travel to hospital in the Children’s Air Ambulance and who might feel worried and scared like I did.

So here is my message to anyone that needs to travel to hospital in the children air ambulance.

Harry Younge was flown on the Children’s Air Ambulance (TCAA) twice in four weeks at the height of the Covid-19 crisis.

Harry Younge was flown on the Children’s Air Ambulance (TCAA) twice in four weeks at the height of the Covid-19 crisis. - Credit: Children's Air Ambulance

I hope you have read my story. Its normal to be worried and nervous if you haven’t been in the air ambulance before but it’s actually not bad at all. It’s very quick and very safe. The pilots are brilliant and they talk to you and reassure you. They answer any questions that you have and they are really really friendly. They have lots of experience in flying and transporting children like us to hospital so they know their stuff. The medical staff that might travel with you are kind, reassuring and are specialists.

They are on board to keep us children safe until we are in a hospital where there is equipment and doctors that can take over and make us better. It’s actually an exciting experience and you will soon realise that you don’t need to be worried or afraid. On a clear day the view is great. I had to travel twice in the air ambulance and the second time I wasn’t worried at all because I knew what to expect and I knew that I was in safe hands. So try to relax, ask as many questions as you want to and know that you are in safe hands. It’s not scary at all. Enjoy the flight.

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