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How George Wilkie Defied The Odds

How George Wilkie Defied The Odds

How George Wilkie Defied The Odds

In the first weeks of his life George Wilkie gave his family the fright of their lives, when the unimaginable happened and sniffles became a life-threatening situation.

Baby George Wilkie

Nothing could have prepared Claire, Rick, and the Wilkie family for what would unfold on 6 June 2017. They had recently welcomed their third child – George – into the world on 12 May 2017, and in those three and a half weeks after his birth, George never left Claire’s side. 

That morning, Claire had noticed that George had the snuffles and something was wrong. She was already taking him to Masterton Hospital to get him checked out by a consultant, so he was seen by a doctor at the same time.

After a thorough assessment, the doctors were confident that George would be fine with close monitoring, and Claire and her son were sent home. But in the back of her mind, Claire felt something still wasn’t quite right.

A mother’s instinct is never wrong.

In the hours after that visit, George’s condition took a turn for the worse. By 10pm that evening, he was gasping for air.

“I called Healthline, and they could hear his breathing over the phone. They told me to hang up and call 111 immediately,” Claire says.

Living on the main road between Martinborough and Featherston, the Wilkie family waited for Wellington Free Ambulance to arrive. An emergency call taker remained at the end of phone with Claire until the paramedic crews arrived.

“The man on the phone told me he wanted to count how many breaths George was taking in a minute. But he just didn’t take a breath.” Claire explains.

Claire will never forget their faces, nor what she felt, when she saw the paramedics in her doorway that night.

“The paramedic walked through the door, and I think she thought that she was looking at a dead baby. I remember the look on her face and my heart dropped. I just thought, ‘this is bad’,” Claire recalls.

“His temperate was really high, his heartrate was astronomical, his oxygen levels were rock bottom. It was just a really bad situation for the poor little thing.”

Things spurred into motion.

A monitor was placed on George’s finger, and he was given oxygen. An ambulance with an Intensive Care Paramedic was called in for assistance. Claire – who was in her pyjamas at the time - was told to get ready to embark for hospital. Meanwhile, Rick remained at home to look after their other two children - Louisa and Phoebe - who were only three and five at the time.

“It was all about the reassurance from that point on. The first thing the paramedic said to me was ‘you’ve done the right thing’,” Claire says.

“I wasn’t prepared to go to the hospital. I thought they were going to arrive, do some things, go away and it was going to be fine. But it wasn’t. It became a major operation that involved two ambulances. Despite it all, I felt very calm. I knew I was in good hands.”

“The paramedics were so compassionate. I was in the back with George and he was so dehydrated and so poorly, the paramedics couldn’t get a line in,” she explains.

“They pulled me to the side and told me that they needed to try drilling into his shin, and that it doesn’t look very nice and sounds horrific. They asked me if I would like to sit up the front of the ambulance.”

“To be saving a baby’s life, and to be thinking of someone else as well, I think that’s quite a special quality to have. The two paramedics that night were angels,” Claire says.

 When George and Claire arrived at Masterton Hospital’s Emergency Department around midnight, they were met by another team ready to fight for George’s life.

“Nine people were waiting for him and they all had a job to do. One of the doctors literally just held his head. George had a lumber puncture, a catheter, blood tests, he had everything,” Claire recalls.

“They were preparing me for the worst and my husband found someone to stay with our other children – Louisa and Phoebe - so he could be with us.”

Another Wellington Free Ambulance was deployed with two NICU nurses on board. By the time they arrived from Wellington, George had stabilized and settled. He was transported to Wellington Regional Hospital’s Emergency Department, arriving at 7am and placed in a high observation ward.

It was one of the longest nights of Claire and Rick’s life.

For a baby so young, George had really overcome some significant challenges. After four nights in hospital, he arrived home on 11 June 2017. At four weeks old, he weighed 500 grams lighter than his birth weight.

Five years later and George is happy, healthy and thriving on the Wilkie family’s home on the farm.

“He’s farm crazy, machine crazy, motorbike crazy. He’s got his own little motorbike. We recently came back from UK and my dad got him a motorbike kit with motocross pants, jersey and gloves. He’s a real character,” Claire laughs.

“He just started at his school on his birthday. He loves it. They receive values awards, and he just got an end of term award for starting school with great confidence.

All the ‘what ifs’ played on Claire’s mind for a long time. But it is thanks to her quick actions, and her mother’s instinct, that the ambulance was called, and George could get the urgent medical care he needed.

“He’s just a good boy, he’s a silly boy, but we’re really blessed to have him. I can only thank the Wellington Free Ambulance team for that. I believe if it wasn’t for the Wellington Free Ambulance, we would have 100% lost our baby that night. They gave him the fighting chance for the hospital to get him through.”

The impact that night had on the Wilkie Family was profound. So much so, that every year on 6 June Claire, Rick, Louisa and Phoebe have a George Celebration Day to recognise the day George’s life was saved.

“It was the day we got to keep him really. We have champagne and have a cheers to George’s miracle day,” Claire says

“I can see the face of the lovely lady paramedic who came through the door first and started to reassure me immediately. And Adam, the intensive care paramedic. This day plays over in my mind all the time and I’ll be forever grateful to Wellington Free Ambulance and their staff for helping us to keep our baby boy that night.”


When you support Wellington Free Ambulance, you ensure that our teams of paramedics can be there for anyone at any time, like George and the Wilkie family. Thank you for supporting us for our Onesie Annual Appeal this year and helping us save lives free of charge. Donate online at www.onesieday.co.nz  


The Wilkie Family today

The Wilkie Family today




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