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Lifesaving Mercy Air Crew reunites with former pediatric patient

Air medical team leaves lasting impression and positive impact

OCEANSIDE – The EMS teams – Mercy Air 5 and Camp Pendleton Fire Department (CPFD) – who helped save the life of a 10-year-old boy, reunited with the young patient and his family at the Mercy Air base in Oceanside, Oct. 18, to celebrate his miraculous recovery.

"If you don't believe in a higher power, you'll definitely question it after hearing Declan's story. He is a walking miracle," said Chris Henson, his father. Declan, who experienced a bike accident earlier this summer, punctured a main artery that supplies blood to the liver.

Declan was riding his bike to a friend's house, just a block down the street from where the Henson's live on Camp Pendleton, when his mother, Jennifer Henson, received a call through Declan's watch – a watch that has an emergency (SOS) capability to call his parents – to let her know he had an accident and needed help.

When Jennifer Henson found her son, there were no visible injuries, but Declan was saying, "hospital, hospital." She immediately called 911.

The CPFD truck that responded that day happened to have a paramedic on board; not all fire trucks that respond have paramedic capabilities. The paramedic saw Declan's loss of color, knew immediate critical care was required, and dispatched Mercy Air 5.

"I'll never forget my first assessment of Declan, and thinking he's in trouble, and we need to move fast," said Mercy Air Flight Nurse Amy Marquez.

Mercy Air is the only community-based emergency medical services provider in the area with the ability to carry and administer blood products before patients even reach a hospital. Mercy Air 5 carries liquid plasma and packed red blood cells on every flight, allowing the team to begin a transfusion that can be continued through arrival at local trauma centers – services that Declan required.

As the Mercy Air team arrived on the scene, Henson stopped breathing and no longer had a pulse. Declan's condition was so severe, that he required airway procedures, continuous CPR, and rapid infusion of blood products the entire flight to Rady Children's Hospital San Diego (RCHSD).

"Typically, the limiting factor in blood transfusion is time," said Zach Fica, a medical resident from UC San Diego Health who was on call with the Mercy Air 5 team that day. "Rarely do we have time to transfuse all units on one call."

The team successfully and efficiently transferred care when they arrived at RCHSD, where Declan faced three exploratory surgeries to stop the internal bleeding over the next 12 hours.

"Declan's loss of blood was so extreme, that the hospital had to call blood banks to ensure they could supply enough," said Chris Henson. "Doctor Ignacio, along with the countless doctors and nurses at Rady's, was amazing in keeping Declan alive. We found out later through others, and through proof of Declan's recovery, Ignacio is very well known and is a top-notch doctor in the field, specializing in trauma like this."

After five surgeries, 55 staples in his abdomen, 181 units of blood and other products, 33 days in the hospital, lots of prayers, and ebbs and flows of physical therapy, Declan made a full recovery and is back home enjoying spending time with his parents and two siblings.

"The amount of time Declan required CPR and the great recovery he has had in a short amount of time is remarkable," said Dr. Romeo Ignacio, Trauma Medical Director at RCHSD, who made a surprise appearance at the reunion on Wednesday, Oct. 18.

"It's truly a miracle Declan is alive today," said Chris Henson. "It is so surreal how that day played out – from Declan's watch being able to call Jennifer, to the right people responding (to the scene) at the right time and having the medical capabilities to do the right thing. It's hard not to feel there wasn't divine intervention. Declan is destined to do great things one day and the reason why he is here today."

While Declan has some post-traumatic stress around his accident, with some reluctance and a dose of courage, he is back on his bike enjoying leisurely rides with his family. Declan's incredible recovery is credited to the immense coordinated effort of the prehospital and hospital teams and the availability of blood products at his moment of need. Declan's family is grateful for the decisive actions of CPFD, the Mercy Air team, RHCSD, and the impact Declan's recovery has had on their family.

"All the stars aligned that day in June. From good, flyable weather to early activation by the fire department and landing us on scene, along with all the incredible surgeons available at Rady's, is what led to bringing Declan home to his family and making this reunion possible," said Marquez. "Declan is truly a miracle, and my reminder of why we do what we do every day."

 

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