Lauren and Charlie

My name is Lauren, and this is the story of how Air Ambulance Kent Surrey Sussex saved my son Charlie’s life.

He was only eight at the time and just starting to play outside on his own with friends. The day it happened, his dad told him to watch the road on our normally quiet residential street, as always – and kept an eye on him from the window. The next thing I knew, my husband was yelling ‘he’s been hit!’, before running out the door. I saw my son lying in the road, unconscious with blood pouring from his head.

I started to scream. My neighbours called 999 because I couldn’t stop screaming.

Al, from the South East Coast Ambulance Service, was only one motorway exit away so arrived very quickly and was the first paramedic on the scene. Air Ambulance Kent Surrey Sussex (KSS) dispatcher Carol had been listening in to the 999 call, so the helicopter followed right away.

All of a sudden, I saw Doctor Matt coming towards us. I was still in such a state of shock, that I hadn’t even heard the helicopter land. But in a strange way, Dr Matt’s arrival brought me sharply back to reality. Suddenly I thought ‘that’s the doctor from 24 hours in A&E’ and in that moment I realised how serious our situation was. Later, Al told me he’d never been so pleased to see the KSS doctor.

Charlie’s head injury was severe; his brain was damaged. His pelvis was broken in four places. His right arm had been skinned from being dragged along the road. They put Charlie on a ventilator so he could breathe. The helicopter took him to King’s College Hospital in London within 17 minutes. In his condition, I’m certain Charlie wouldn’t have survived in a normal ambulance. I saw Matt making a phone call and asked who he was calling. He explained it was a code red call to King’s College Hospital, so that staff would be ready to meet us when we landed.

Charlie’s family on King’s College Hospital helipad after his recovery
Charlie meeting our crew in 2019, from left to right: HEMS Dispatcher Carol Lewis, Dr Matthew Mak, Charlie and Paramedic Al Crawford

I had to let Charlie go and wait in the family room. It was the longest wait of my life. It took five hours to stop my son’s bleeding. He was in a coma by the time we were finally able to see him. I can’t describe how it feels to see your baby boy in that state. Even when he came around, he was completely vacant. The doctors said he wasn’t recognising us, yet I felt sure his eyes followed me around his room. They also said he was likely to be paralysed down his right side. We had no idea if he would become responsive. He was like a baby again. He couldn’t do anything for himself and had to be fed through a tube.

We are so lucky and grateful that he is still here with us. Over the next few months Charlie underwent intensive physio and language therapy, re-learning colours and numbers. He still has a lot of scars from his injuries, many of which he’ll have for life. His brain hasn’t fully recovered, so he has problems with his memory and lives with this hidden disability. Yet, without KSS and the team at King’s College Hospital, he wouldn’t be here at all. We went to meet the crew who saved him. But how do you say thank you for saving your son’s life? I try to support KSS in any way I can and that’s why now I volunteer and fundraise for them.

A year on from his accident, we’re delighted to say Charlie is doing really well and back at school. To say thank you for saving his life, our family are doing all we can to help Air Ambulance Kent Surrey Sussex. Before Charlie’s accident, I never realised just how much they depend on local people like you and me to deliver the life-saving work they do. Until lockdown came along, on the anniversary of his accident, we wanted to hold a community fundraising event to raise funds for KSS. Sadly, because of Coronavirus, that won’t be possible now. The loss of fundraising income from many cancelled events like these means KSS need your help now, more than ever before. I’m happy to share our story with you, in the hope that you will show your support for their life-saving work with a donation today. Please give what you can. Thank you.

Charlie in 2020 with his dog Eddie

Our patients are at the centre of what we do.

There is nothing more heart-warming for our team than when a former patient gets in touch and wants to visit us. If you, or a family member, has been a patient of ours and would like to get in touch, we would love to hear from you. 

Saving lives when every second counts

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