Wales Air Ambulance installs BabyPod portable incubators in its EC135s
Lifesaving charity Wales Air Ambulance has installed portable incubators in its three aircraft, helping seriously ill infants receive the critical care they need by air.
The ‘Babypod’ is the first of its kind in Wales and can be installed on each helicopter within minutes, saving precious time in a paediatric emergency.
Wales Air Ambulance airlifts around 400 children every year from its bases in Swansea, Caernarfon and Welshpool. The incubators will make a vital difference in treating and flying infants up to nine months old, which accounts for on average three missions each month.
Clinical and operations manager at the charity Jason Williams said: “These ‘flying incubators’ will completely change the way babies receive urgent medical care.
“Previously, infants would be carried in the arms of a parent or paramedic, but the Babypods provide a safer, warmer and calmer environment for the patient.
“Our highly skilled crews can also provide more advanced treatment in-flight, such as managing a difficult airway.”
The pioneering equipment is made of lightweight, non-metallic materials, allowing it to be used in x-ray and MRI machines when babies reach hospital.
The Babypods are lined with a shock absorbing foam, ensuring minimal vibrations from aircraft engines, and has a transparent lid allowing parents and paramedics to constantly monitor infants.
Convulsions are the most common condition that the 150mph helicopters respond to in infants, but the crews attend a wide range of paediatric emergencies and can fly children to specialist centres throughout Wales and beyond.
Jason added: “We’re here for everyone in Wales, and that includes running the national children’s air ambulance for the country.
“Children often need very specialist care and we can get them to the treatment they need, whether it’s Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospital in Cardiff or Great Ormond Street in London.”
Fundraising has been crucial to introducing the new kit, which costs £16,000 for each of the three airbases.
Wales Air Ambulance chief executive Angela Hughes said: “The Babypods will undoubtedly support families up and down the country, and this is thanks to the generosity of the people of Wales.
“Even the smallest of donations has helped towards getting this valuable piece of equipment for babies here in Wales, and we will be on standby should any family need us, 365 days a year.”
The Babypods are the latest piece of pioneering equipment installed on the fleet of Wales Air Ambulance aircraft. The three helicopters were recently fitted with video laryngoscopes, which greatly aid paramedics’ efforts to clear blocked airways.
Wales Air Ambulance also recently extended its operating hours, and is undertaking night flight trials at its three airbases in an effort to increase its services to the Welsh public.
The Babypod: how flying incubators work
• The Babypod is 100cm long, 43cm wide and 30cm in height. It weighs 9.5kg and can be carried by one crew member.
• It is fitted onto the aircraft stretcher using custom built mounting system, enabling the incubator to be secured or removed within minutes.
• The lightweight carbon-fibre outer shell is lined with shock absorbent foam and a thermal mattress. The patient is kept warm and comfortable with minimal vibration from aircraft engines.
• The pod also has a specially designed vacuum mattress that aids the transportation of babies that need to be immobilised for the journey.
• The transparent lid means crew – and an accompanying parent – can monitor the child at all times.
• Infants are conveyed in a stable environment, meaning advanced and emergency treatment can be carried out in-flight, such as managing a difficult or blocked airway, or administering drugs.
• The pod is non-metallic, x-ray translucent and MRI compatible for when the baby reaches hospital.