A specialist medical team from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde made a dramatic nine hour helicopter trip to Stornoway to bring twin premature babies back to the Southern General Hospital.
Lead by Charlie Skeoch, consultant neo-natologist and lead consultant with the Neo-natal Transport Service, the four-strong team were picked up at Glasgow Airport by the duty crew of the Royal Navy’s search and rescue unit at HMS Gannet, Prestwick.
Tasked at 7.10pm on Thursday night (March 11), the crew of Lieutenant Andy Ellis, Captain Michael ‘Jack’ Frost Royal Marines, Lieutenant Commander Martin ‘Florry Ford and Petty Officer Taff Ashman raced to pick up the medics, complete with two incubators – each weighing 320lbs – before heading north to Stornoway in the Western Isles.
The sheer weight of the aircraft with the medical crew and the incubators necessitated a running take-off from Glasgow Airport and, with 30 knot headwinds on the way up to Lewis, it was necessary to refuel at Broadford on Skye, before arriving at Stornoway at 10.15pm.
Once on the island the elite Glasgow team worked with Stornoway Hospital’s own neo-natal unit to ensure that the twins, born at 34 weeks, were stable, before they were loaded onto the Sea King in their incubators, for return to Glasgow’s Southern General Hospital.
Taking off from Lewis at 1.30am, the helicopter spent almost two hours in the air, arriving at Glasgow at 3.20am.
The little boys, sons of Fiona and Peter McDonald, were born weighing just 2.22kg and 2.69kg respectively.
The tiny pair has been thriving over the weekend in the special care unit at Glasgow’s Southern General Hospital where mum and dad have been by their side.
“We are extremely grateful to everyone involved,” said Peter and Fiona. “The babies are doing really well and we hope to be heading home later this week.”
Speaking about the long journey, pilot Lieutenant Andy Ellis said: “It’s a real pleasure to be able to help like this.
“After picking the team up from Glasgow Airport, we had some pretty tricky flying on the way up, with strong headwinds, heavy showers reducing visibility, low cloud base, and we had to go round islands for clearer conditions.
“But we tried to get through as quickly as possible. And the journey back down was much quicker and straight forward.
“It was a good result from our perspective and it’s great to hear that the babies are doing well – which is the most important thing; that’s what it was all about – a happy ending.”
Fiona Holland, UK Regional Media and Communications Officer, Royal Navy
01436 674321 Faslane x6623
Also contact Lorraine Dick, Senior Public Relations Officer, Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board on 0141 201 4429
Pictures show the interior of the Sea King during the transfer of the babies to Glasgow’s Southern General, with specialist nurse Jo Gallagher monitoring progress, and one of the Sea King Mark 5s on exercise in the snowy Highlands
PLEASE NOTE: Parents Fiona and Peter McDonald are not available for interview or photographs
Notes to editors
1. HMS Gannet, in 2007, became the UK’s busiest helicopter search and rescue station since records began, with 359 call outs, assisting 349 people, of which 286 were casualties. And 2008 saw them break their own record with call outs rising to 382, rescuing 347 people. Finally, 2009’s statistics showed an increase in call outs of 65, taking it to 447 with 378 people rescued. These figures also claimed four UK records since records began – most called out, most amount of people rescued, first unit to pass 400 and first unit to set a year-on-year record for three years in a row.
The Royal Navy’s men and women cover an enormous area of the west of Scotland, northern England and Northern Ireland, covering some 98,000 square miles – more than 12 times the size of Wales.
They provide a 24/7 search and rescue capability 365 days a year, saving countless lives on the mountains, at sea, on the roads and also supply specialist medical evacuation from Scotland’s Hebridean islands.
HMS Gannet is the only Royal Navy aviation asset north of Lincolnshire.
2. The men and women of HMS Gannet serve on a frontline, albeit that it is one within the UK, in the mountains and above the seas of Scotland, Northern England and Northern Ireland.
But, for some of the aircrew who have returned from serving in Afghanistan, whether with the Royal Navy, the Royal Marines or on exchange with the other services, it is an ideal environment to maintain skills used in operational theatre, while for others the terrain offers an excellent training ground in advance of deployment.
The sometimes extreme weather, harsh mountainous terrain and the skills involved in not only operating the aircraft and equipment, but also in conducting rescues and saving lives within a hostile environment, combines to make it an exceptional preparation ground for serving alongside their forces colleagues in the skies of Afghanistan.
3. In 2009, members of the unit have been recognised for some of their extraordinary endeavours by the Operational Honours List. This has amounted to three Air Force Crosses, one Queen’s Gallantry Medal, three Queen’s Commendations for Bravery in the Air and no less than five Commander-in-Chief Fleet Commendations, including one for the entire unit – service and civilian. For such a small unit, this is an almost unheard of haul of honours.