Sheffield girl 5, flown in Children’s Air Ambulance after a UK first operation

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After undergoing a UK first heart and lung operation at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, five-year-old Pippa Clegg-Rimmer was well enough to be transferred to a hospital in her hometown to continue her recovery.

Pippa has a very rare form of pulmonary hypertension - one of only four cases ever recorded – and she was the first person under the age of 14 in the UK and possibly Europe to have surgery to remove blood clots from her heart and lungs.

Before the operation her parents were told that there were no guarantees she would survive surgery but, as her condition was rapidly deteriorating and her life expectancy was less than a year, they felt they had no alternative but to give their consent for it to go ahead.

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Miraculously, Pippa defied the odds and four weeks after she underwent the ground-breaking surgery, she was flown on the Children’s Air Ambulance from London to Sheffield to be admitted to Sheffield Children’s Hospital.

Pippa aboard the Childre's Air Ambulance on her way to Sheffield.Pippa aboard the Childre's Air Ambulance on her way to Sheffield.
Pippa aboard the Childre's Air Ambulance on her way to Sheffield.

Her dad Daniel Clegg, from Rochdale, accompanied her on the 70-minute transfer, along with a specialist paediatric retrieval team from Embrace, Yorkshire & Humber Infant and Children’s Transport Service (part of Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust) .

Previously he had travelled to London with his daughter in an Embrace ambulance which had taken over six hours.

Daniel says: “The helicopter journey was a lot quicker and easier for us both which made it far less stressful on the day. It made a massive difference. Everyone was so happy for us to be going home. It was fantastic. It was so exciting for everyone in the family, and they knew exactly when we would be back with them and didn’t have to worry about any delays.”

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The Children’s Air Ambulance had taken off from its base in Doncaster with the Embrace team onboard.

Pippa in hospital after her operation.Pippa in hospital after her operation.
Pippa in hospital after her operation.

The helicopter landed at Battersea Heliport where an ambulance was waiting to drive the team to Great Ormond Street Hospital. On arrival they prepared Pippa for the air transfer and then travelled with her and Daniel back to the waiting helicopter.

The helicopter flew to the Northern General Hospital helipad. It was then a 13-minute drive in a land ambulance to get Pippa to where she was to spend the next nine days recovering.

Daniel says: “Pippa was fully aware of everything that was happening, and she loved the flight. It was such a happy time for us after all the stress and worry.”

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“The pilots explained everything so Pippa could understand what was happening. She is very inquisitive and asked a lot of questions.”

Pippa Clegg-Rimmer with dad Daniel Clegg and twin sister Isobel.Pippa Clegg-Rimmer with dad Daniel Clegg and twin sister Isobel.
Pippa Clegg-Rimmer with dad Daniel Clegg and twin sister Isobel.

Pippa was finally discharged from Sheffield Children’s Hospital and is now back at school for an hour a day. Doctors are pleased with her progress so far.

Daniel says: “Her long-term outcome is not clear, and it is possible she will need more surgery in the future. The way she was deteriorating before the operation she probably wouldn’t be alive if she didn’t have it, but now she’s running around with her twin sister Isobelle and not in a wheelchair.”

Daniel and a group of family and friends are planning a sponsored cycle ride from Blackpool to Rochdale in August this year. The proceeds will be shared by the Children’s Air Ambulance and Great Ormond Street Hospital.