Tiny baby saved by 120-mile flight in 'wrong' helicopter

Eleven-week-old Oakley Miles-Slade back at home in Watlington with his parents, Lauren Miles and Lew

Eleven-week-old Oakley Miles-Slade back at home in Watlington with his parents, Lauren Miles and Lewis Slade, after being rushed from the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital to King's College Hospital by the Coastguard for life saving treatment at just five-days-old. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

A tiny baby is a picture of health after his life was saved during a dramatic 120-mile helicopter dash from Norfolk to London.

Oakley Miles-Slade fell ill at the age of four days, with a liver condition that was causing his heart to fail.

Medics at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital said he needed specialist intensive care at King's College Hospital's Paediatric Liver Centre in London.

But, with no regular air ambulances available, the coastguard chopper was called in - triggering a frantic battle to keep Oakley alive in the back of an ambulance while the helicopter was equipped to care for the tot.

With parents Lauren Miles and Lewis Slade, both 23, waiting helplessly, Oakley was then flown for 45 minutes to London.

Miss Miles said: "During the journey, I kept looking at the sky. How is my baby? Is he going to survive given how poorly he was? I was on edge the whole time, I was so scared."

The extraordinary efforts paid off, with Oakley successfully treated by specialists in London.

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But there had been no clues of what was to come when Oakley was born on January 29 at NNUH, almost six weeks early but weighing a healthy 6lb 9oz.

Lauren and Lewis, of Watlington, near Downham Market, were moving house three days before their son was born.

The first concerns were raised when he was four days old. He began grunting, leading the NNUH team to discover a liver abnormality, which was causing his heart to fail. 

Oakley Miles-Slade is recovering after needing emergency treatment for his liver

Dr Akash Deep, Clinical Lead for Paediatric Intensive Care at King’s College Hospital pictured with baby Oakley and his dad Lewis Slade. - Credit: King's College Hospital

Following the helicopter dash, Oakley was met by the Neonatal Intensive Care Team (NICU) and would spend several weeks under their care.

Staff treated a benign diffuse liver tumour, and performed an operation to stop the excess blood supply through Oakley's arteriovenous malformation (AVM), which was causing heart failure and acute kidney injury.

Miss Miles praised the work of all of the teams involved in Oakley's care including those working in the NICU at NNUH for getting Oakley to the best place for treatment and supporting them while they were inconsolable.

She added the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in King's Lynn, had also helped the family with Oakley's feeding once he was discharged from King's College.

Dad Lewis said, “It has been very difficult to see our new baby so unwell but you just have to trust in the professionals. It’s amazing how they all worked together to get Oakley the care he needed.

“Since being treated at King’s, Oakley’s kidney function has returned to normal, meaning he has not required dialysis, and he has been brought off the ventilator and is now breathing for himself."

Oakley returned to the family's home in Watlington nearly seven weeks ago with mum, dad and big brother Arlo, five.

Miss Miles said: "It was the best feeling ever. He had been so poorly. We were told several times to prepare for the worst. Now he's home and you could never guess he was ever poorly.

"You never forget those feelings and the emotions. He is just an amazing little boy." 

Mr Slade added: "Every minute counts."

The King's College Hospital's paediatric liver centre is a national hub for treating children with liver problems. 

Dr Akash Deep, clinical lead, took the phone call requesting the hospital's help.

He said: "We are the largest service of its type in the world so we knew we had the expertise to care for baby Oakley."

Dr Thomas Bycroft, consultant in paediatric intensive care at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and CATS said: "I was incredibly proud to be part of the Children's Acute Transport Service (CATS) on call that night, which helped get Oakley the urgent care he needed from the team at King's.

"Bringing the skills of specialised nurses and intensive care doctors on the road - by land or air - and to the bedside of critically ill children can make all the difference in situations like this." 

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