WHEN Anna and Nick Laker joined their newlywed friends for a first dance at their wedding, they never imagined their baby boy would make an unexpected arrival.

But despite having nearly two months to go until her due date and being 200 miles away in Leeds, Anna went into labour on the dance floor.

Anna, says: “I had felt fine, a bit achy as I had very high heels on but we’d just been dancing and like a film, my waters broke.”

Hours later little Freddie was born at 5lb 7oz in Leeds hospital.

But rather than enjoy those precious first moments with her newborn baby, he was taken away to the hospital’s special care baby unit where he was tube fed.

“At the time it was terrifying, you don’t know what to expect and we were in quite a lot of shock,” she says.

The first-time parents, who were desperate to be allowed to return home to be closer to the support of their friends and family, today want to thank The Children’s Air Ambulance for helping in their most worrying time.

Daily Echo:

Freddie pictured today at his home in Warsash

Doctors decided little Freddie was too delicate to endure the five hour journey by land ambulance so the country’s first and only dedicated helicopter hospital transfer service for critically ill children and babies stepped in.

At just two days old, Freddie was placed in a pod onboard wearing tiny ear defenders and made the journey in the helicopter, which can reach speeds of 185 mph, in just one hour.

Nick, a civil engineer, explains: “It was very scary.

Freddie was placed in a pod they name Shrek and it was very emotional because my dad who had died a year earlier had a boat called Shrek. It was like dad was transporting him safely.”

The-32-year-old, adds: “We knew Freddie was in the safest hands and being able to make this journey by air reduced the stress for both Freddie and ourselves, as well as keeping any risks to a minimum.

“We are so grateful to The Children’s Air Ambulance, as without them we would have been forced to stay several hundred miles away from the support of our friends and family, possibly for several weeks before Freddie would have been well enough to travel by road.”

Freddie, whose middle name is Joseph after the groom at the wedding, was discharged from hospital two weeks later.

Today aged ten months and healthy, dad Nick takes Freddie swimming every week which gave him the idea to embark on a gruelling challenge for The Children’s Air Ambulance.

Daily Echo:

Freddie going into The Children's Air Ambulance

He will be joined by 12 of his close friends and family to swim 5km across The Solent from Ryde, Isle of Wight to Alverstoke, in Gosport.

The challenge which takes place on Saturday, September 6, will be made possible thanks to the support of the Portsmouth lifeguards who will escort the team across.

Nick, says: “Having been in need of their service to help our precious newborn son, I know just how valuable it is.”

Anna, 31, adds: “We feel like we were lucky because most babies and children who use the helicopter are in a critical condition. For us, The Children’s Air Ambulance made our lives better but for many people it saves lives and that’s why we’re determined to raise awareness about the vital service. You just don’t know when you might need it.”

To support Nick and the team go to justgiving.com/Swim-The-Solent-Sept-14/

Flights for survival

Daily Echo:

Patron of The Children's Air Ambulance Melanie Walcott

IT is the charity that saves lives but it relies on the public to make its flights for survival.

The Children’s Air Ambulance (TCAA) is the country’s first and only dedicated helicopter hospital transfer services for critically ill children and babies helping them to get specialist care as quickly as possible.

Babies across the country are often forced to endure long journeys by road to get to the country’s hospitals with Paediatric Intensive Care Units (PICU) such as Southampton General Hospital.

But working alongside NHS Paediatric Retrieval Teams, TCAA can transfer babies from district hospitals to PICU up to four times faster than a journey by road.

It means it relieves pressure on Hampshire & Isle of Wight Air Ambulance to make sure their lifesaving work responding to trauma incidents is available when needed.

So far the service has carried out 90 transfers and helped keep hope alive for dozens of families across the country since its launch in October 2012.

However the charity, which gets no Government funding, relies solely on public donations to raise the £134,000 a month needed to keep the helicopter in the air.

For information call 08454 130999, or visit: thechildrensairambulance.org.uk.