Falyn and Peter Cranston were excitedly awaiting their first children, twins Fergus and Finley, but only 12 weeks into the pregnancy it was clear Fergus would have to fight for his life.
The left-hand side of Fergus’ heart wasn’t forming correctly, particularly the chamber that pumps blood throughout the body, a condition called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome.
Falyn would need to give birth to the boys at Starship Hospital to give them the best chance of survival, but that would mark only the start of Fergus’ medical journey.
At only five days old, he had his first open-heart surgery.
The family, from Paraparaumu, spent the next four weeks at Starship Hospital before they could be cleared to return to Wellington Hospital. They didn’t know it yet, but the family would spend fewer than 30 days at home over the next five months.
With Fergus still recovering from his surgery and the difficulties he was facing maintaining oxygen levels, flying commercially simply wouldn’t be an option.
Fergus needed the expertise of a medical team and a tank of oxygen to keep him healthy.
Life Flight’s air ambulance was his only option.
“When Life Flight arrived, they came all the way to our room at Starship and helped gather up all our stuff and looked after us really well for the whole journey,” Falyn said.
“We were taken by ambulance to the airport and they got us onboard, including Finley, who obviously needed a way home too.”
Last year, Life Flight flew more than 1200 people like Fergus and Finley in their moments of need.
Expectant parents, accident and emergency victims, people who need treatment from hospitals across the country, children and babies requiring specialist care, and so many more.
About a quarter of those missions were for babies and young children like Fergus.
But this wasn’t the last time Fergus would need Life Flight’s services.
After spending some time in Wellington Hospital, the family were free to go home. Fergus spent the next 11 days at home, but the signs weren’t improving.
“It was such an intense time. The exhaustion of being first-time parents to newborn twins. We had no idea what we were doing, and we were trying to learn it all while having all this other stuff going on in the background.”
Teams at Wellington Hospital and Starship Hospital were concerned that the shunt in Fergus’ heart might be narrowing.
“If anything was to go wrong with that shunt, it would have been catastrophic for him. They needed to get us up to Auckland as soon as possible.”
Life Flight got the call and headed over to Wellington Hospital to pick them up. Falyn remembers the relief she felt knowing Life Flight was on its way.
“It was one less thing to worry about. From having to organise a flight back ourselves commercially after some of his procedures and things, the forms that have to be filled out and to have oxygen available to him. I can appreciate very much how slick the operation is. You just don’t have to worry.”
In a fortunate turn of events, the CT scan brought good news and, after a week at Starship Hospital, they could return home.
A month later, Falyn and Fergus flew to Auckland again for his second surgery and he had his third two years later. By the age of 3, he had gone through three open-heart surgeries.
Falyn and Peter never expected the medical journey they’ve experienced, but have been blown away by the supportive people and organisations that have helped them through it all.
Fergus and Finley are now 6 and have a 2-year-old sister, Quinn. These last few years have been easier on Fergus but his parents are often reminded of his weaker immune system. Thanks to the support of the community, he’s living the life of a bubbly and fun 6-year-old.
“Nobody expects to need a service like Life Flight but knowing, when you’re in a situation like ours, that there is an option available, all because people have donated – it’s the best feeling.”
If you’d like to fund the planes flying critically ill New Zealanders like Fergus, visit www.bookalifeflight.nz.