Since joining the Great North Air Ambulance Service in 2018, I’ve attended many memorable incidents but one that really sticks in my mind is the case of Kacper Krauze.

In February 2019 Kacper was only 13 years old when he was pulled from the River Eden in Appleby in cardiac arrest after being submerged underwater for around 25 minutes.

When we arrived, an ambulance crew, the local fire service and Dr Theo Weston (who works for GNAAS but was there as a rapid response doctor) were already on scene. The resuscitation process had been started and the fire service were performing manual chest compression on Kacper.

One of our first interventions was to place Kacper onto a mechanical chest compression device. This is able to give completely uninterrupted chest compressions, even when moving the patient, ensuring constant quality and, unlike a person, the machine does not become tired.

We contacted the emergency department team at the Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI) in Newcastle to advise them that we were coming with a child who was severely hypothermic and in cardiac arrest, and who would benefit from ECMO treatment. ECMO stands for Extra Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation. This is where blood is taken out of the body, warmed and provided with oxygen before being delivered back to the body using a pump machine.

This is a highly specialised procedure which requires staff and equipment to be transported from the Freeman Hospital to the RVI, with our early information the RVI was able to coordinate this advanced treatment seamlessly.

We flew to the RVI in just 20 minutes and there was a full critical care team waiting for us, which meant Kacper had a good continuity of care.

We met the family a few months later and it was amazing to see Kacper looking so well but he still had a long recovery ahead of him. The right side of his body was weak and his family were supporting him as he walked round our helipad. He also had a tremor affecting his speech and had difficulty using his right hand.

We’ve recently heard from his mother Wioletta more than a year after his incident, who informed us that he’s been making good progress. His walking has improved but he sometimes needs help, and his right hand is still shaky but he has since learned to use his left hand.

Kacper is attending school part-time and his speech has made a massive improvement. When we spoke to him last year he struggled with his speech but now he can say everything.

It is incredible to think that when we first saw him he was being resuscitated and had no signs of life – and now he’ll be celebrating his 15th birthday this month.