A battling baby girl is looking forward to her first Christmas – but only after surviving a life-threatening condition which saw her take to the skies by air ambulance during the height of Storm Caroline.
Tot Elsy Williamson was diagnosed with bronchiolitis earlier this month when she was barely more than three weeks old.
Medical teams at the Gilbert Bain Hospital deliberated over how best to treat poor Elsy after she was rushed to the Lerwick A&E department suffering severe breathing difficulties.
It was decided to send Elsy to Aberdeen for treatment, despite the looming storm.
Now, relieved mum Rachel Williamson has spoken about the terrifying incident, and thanked all those who helped the family through the traumatic ordeal. The 31-year-old is also urging parents to recognise the warning signs of the potentially fatal condition. Mrs Williamson – who stays with Elsy in Fladdabister along with husband Lee, 30, and two-year-old son Isaac – first noticed things were wrong when Elsy started with a cold at just two weeks old, which led to her being drowsy and feeding badly.
The couple later noticed a “crackle” in Elsy’s breathing. She had a cough, Mrs Williamson said, and her eyes were rolling.
At the Gilbert Bain Hospital, discussions were held throughout the night over what the best course of action for Elsy was. Always on doctors’ minds was the fact that Storm Caroline – which brought gusts of over 100mph – was on the way.
On 7th December, Elsy and Mrs Williamson were taken by ambulance with anaesthetic nurse Luke Holt and Dr Cariad [Cas] Findlater towards Sumburgh to board the waiting flight.
“Hats off to the paramedics, they were amazing driving in those conditions as best they could.
“The ambulance drive was scary enough. You were weaving on the road. Every time you got to an exposed bit, you just got blown.”
At the airport, she said, the plane was “shaking and moving” even while standing still.
“I was sitting on that plane praying that we would get to Aberdeen. It was just unbelievable.
“The plane itself had to shelter behind a shed before it went on the runway.
“I had to feed Elsy because if I didn’t feed her she’d get too tired. They let me hold her rather than her being strapped in.
“Sitting on the tarmac before we left was very frightening. The take-off was very bumpy to say the least.
“Cas and Luke were both holding me. Luke was pressing against my shoulder to hold me still, and Cas was pressing against my knee to hold me still, so that I could be as still as possible and Elsy’s head wouldn’t bump against the side.”
“We really felt the team were amazing, the pilots were amazing and also there was just heaps of people praying for us. We were just so grateful and we really felt it made a huge difference.
“The team in Aberdeen did a great job of getting all that she needed done quite quickly.”
The family are eager to thank staff at A&E and the paramedics as well as Mr Holt, Dr Findlater and staff in Aberdeen.
Mrs Williamson also voiced thanks to the couple’s families “who put everything on hold”.
Of course, there is little doubt that – given all they have been through – that little Elsy’s first Christmas will be even more special than the family had even imagined.
“It is already such a gift just to have Elsy here with her health, and it puts everything else in perspective,” said Mrs Williamson.
“You don’t feel so consumed with needing to get this, that and the other. It’s just delightful to all be here. She’s here, in one piece, and we are all together.”
• For full story, see this week’s Shetland Times.