Wales

Wales Air Ambulance: Parents back campaign for 24/7 service

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionEllie, now two, collapsed whilst playing at her home in Caerphilly.

The parents of a two-year-old girl whose life was saved by the Wales Air Ambulance are backing its campaign to become a 24/7 service.

Ellie Harris suffered a heart attack while playing at home in Caerphilly.

The charity's Twilight Car, which runs up until 02:00 on weekends in winter months, was operating minutes away from her when she was taken ill in February.

Ellie, from Abercarn, was 14 months old when she became very ill following a seemingly normal winter cold.

Image copyright Wales Air Ambulance
Image caption Dad Matt Harris said Ellie "may not be here today" without the ambulance service

Her father Matt, 25, said he and his wife noticed Ellie was "deteriorating and showing some particularly concerning symptoms, including seizures".

They called 999 just after 20:00 GMT and a Wales Air Ambulance crew arrived by car.

"It soon became apparent that Ellie was far more poorly than we first envisaged," Mr Harris said.

Dr Dindi Gill was on duty that evening and said the presence of the Twilight Car "meant that we were able to rapidly deliver critical care interventions".

After she was stabilised, Ellie was flown to the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff.

She was later diagnosed with Brugada Syndrome, a rare but serious condition that affects the way electrical signals pass through the heart, causing it to beat dangerously fast.

These unusually fast heartbeats, known as an arrhythmia, can be life-threatening.

She was then flown by the charity to Bristol to receive further treatment.

Image copyright Wales Air Ambulance
Image caption Currently the air ambulance operates 12 hours a day

Mr Harris said that almost a year later, Ellie was "able to do things that any two-year-old can do".

"There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that without Wales Air Ambulance, Ellie may not be here today," he added.

In 2019, the charity had its busiest year to date - responding to 3,627 emergency call outs, up 1,200 from 2018.

Of those, 400 calls involved patients under the age of 17.

The charity currently needs £6.5m a year to keep its "flying medics" airborne, but to become 24/7 it needs an extra £1.5m a year, and wants to do this by the end of 2020.

Currently the air ambulance cannot operate at night, but works 12 hours a day - between 08:00 and 20:00 - seven days a week.

In some of the hours not covered by the charity's four helicopters, based at Llanelli, Caernarfon, Welshpool and Cardiff, the flying medics take to the road in rapid response vehicles, including the Twilight Car.

The charity's chairman, David Gilbert OBE, said: "With the help of the Welsh public, we want to make our vision of providing a 24-hour service a reality in 2020."

Chief executive officer Angela Hughes said that without the Welsh public's support, "we certainly wouldn't be where we are today".

More on this story