HELP Appeal donates to new helipad at children’s hospital

The fundraising campaign for a life-saving helipad at Sheffield Children’s Hospital took a major step forward on Feb. 6 thanks to a new charity partnership.

From left: John Somers, chief executive officer of Sheffield Children's NHS Foundation Trust; Nicola Anderson, trauma nurse coordinator at Sheffield Children's Hospital; Robert Bertram, CEO of the HELP Appeal; Dr. Clare O'Connell, consultant in emergency medicine and major trauma lead at Sheffield Children's Hospital; David Vernon-Edwards, director at The Children's Hospital Charity; and Peter Knowles, head of estates at Sheffield Children's NHS Foundation Trust. HELP Appeal Photo
From left: John Somers, chief executive officer of Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust; Nicola Anderson, trauma nurse coordinator at Sheffield Children’s Hospital; Robert Bertram, CEO of the HELP Appeal; Dr. Clare O’Connell, consultant in emergency medicine and major trauma lead at Sheffield Children’s Hospital; David Vernon-Edwards, director at The Children’s Hospital Charity; and Peter Knowles, head of estates at Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust. HELP Appeal Photo
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The HELP Appeal’s chief executive officer Robert Bertram has presented the first installment of £562,500 (US$729,756) out of a £2.25 million (US$2.9 million) pledge to David Vernon-Edwards, director of The Children’s Hospital Charity.

The HELP Appeal has been providing significant grants to fund life-saving helipads at major trauma centers and A&E hospitals around England and Scotland since 2009. In 2016, it helped fund the helipad at Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital.

Its total donation of £2.25 million will cover half of the cost of the helipad. The £6 million (US$7.7 million) that The Children’s Hospital Charity’s appeal is raising includes a contingency fund should costs rise before its expected completion in 2023.

Due to its status as a regional major trauma center, the emergency department at Sheffield Children’s Hospital helps up to 200 children a day. The helipad will reduce the delays for patients who need critical care as soon as possible from across South Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Lincolnshire.

Currently, air ambulances land in Weston Park and patients are then transported across the busy A57 under a police escort before entering the emergency department at Sheffield Children’s Hospital.

The new helipad would ensure air ambulances are able to land in the park after dark, significantly extending its operation throughout winter. It would also have electric trace heating incorporated into the deck to ensure that ice and snow do not disrupt the continued use of the facility during periods of inclement weather.

Vernon-Edwards said: “We’re so grateful to Robert and the HELP Appeal for their generous support as we strive to make this life-saving helipad a reality. With the pressures on our emergency department growing every year, this project has never been more needed.”

“After helipad patients land, they shouldn’t have to endure a lengthy secondary transfer in a road ambulance or trolley, as it can cause further discomfort and injury and delay lifesaving treatment,” Bertram said. “The sooner a seriously ill child can reach a specialist doctor, the better their chances of survival. Having a helipad beside the emergency department will save time, save lives and keep families together.”

Patient story:

The current landing site, in the public space of the park, also means that there may be additional complications including organized events which may be taking place. This proved to be the case when 14-year-old schoolboy Joe Boyer was struck by a motorcycle while crossing a road in Chesterfield in April 2016.

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Initially pronounced dead at the scene, Boyer was rushed to Sheffield Children’s Hospital by air ambulance, where the team had to clear a wedding ceremony from the park in order for the helicopter to land.

The teenager suffered a severe brain injury as well as third-degree burns, femoral fractures, a fractured pelvis and spine as well as significant damage to his kidneys, lungs and spleen.

“The only thing he didn’t break was one arm,” his mother, Marie, painfully recalled. “In the eight hours after Joe’s admission, the medical team had to resuscitate him four times. We thought we’d lost him but they kept bringing him back to life.”

Boyer spent the next two weeks in a coma and a month in recovery at Sheffield Children’s Hospital, in the Intensive Care Unit and the Burns Ward. However the discharge was only the start of his journey, as the brain injury meant he had to learn to walk, talk and eat again.

Marie continued: “Physically Joe has mended really well. The brain injury continues to affect his short term memory, but he has managed to take his GCSE’s which is a huge achievement.”

“If Sheffield Children’s Hospital can get their own helipad, patients can get into the hospital quickly and avoid the problems of landing in the park. Minutes matter in these situations and other families might not be so lucky.”

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