Petra's story

In January 2010 when three-year-old Petra Wellard returned home after being at a friend’s birthday party her parents, Kerenza and Brandon, noticed she was very tired.
A headshot of former patient, Petra Wellard

The next day Petra was still not her usual self and had been vomiting so her parents sought medical advice and were told to monitor her at home for the next 24 hours.

However, the following day Petra’s condition deteriorated to the extent that Kerenza called 999.

She recalled: “Petra was in bed and she gave the most horrific scream and her eyes were rolling to the back of her head.”

A critical care paramedic from Wiltshire Air Ambulance was despatched to their home in Devizes. At the time the helicopter was undergoing maintenance so he attended in a Rapid Response Vehicle (car).

Wiltshire Air Ambulance’s paramedics are specialists in critical care and have extensive knowledge and skills.

After assessing Petra the paramedic was concerned and suspected she had meningitis. He called for a land ambulance which blue lighted Petra and her mum to the Royal United Hospital, Bath.

Petra was diagnosed with viral meningitis and while this was serious in its own right, she had also contracted encephalitis and acidosis – both life-threatening conditions.

Petra was in the High Dependency Unit at the Royal United Hospital and was extremely ill. She regained consciousness after five days but the illnesses had taken their toll.

Kerenza said: “When Petra woke up she was unable to sit, walk or talk. It was like the first three years of her life were completely wiped out.”

A family and their dog stood in a garden against a green hedge

Petra was in the RUH for just over two weeks and after being discharged underwent six months of intensive speech and language, occupational and physiotherapy.

Since then Petra has recovered well and enjoys her hobbies of playing football, taking part in athletics and playing the piano.

The only side effects from her illnesses are that her hearing is hypersensitive and she has verbal dyspraxia, meaning she sometimes has trouble pronouncing new vocabulary and has to practise saying new words.

Kerenza and Brandon, who also have two other children, daughter Jocasta and son Morgan, say they are indebted to Wiltshire Air Ambulance for helping Petra.

Kerenza said: “We feel incredibly lucky. The paramedic recognised something was seriously wrong with Petra and as a result she was treated quickly.

“Wiltshire Air Ambulance is an amazing service and until you have cause to use it you don’t realise how precious is it.”

"We will always be grateful to Wiltshire Air Ambulance. It’s so easy to say thank you, but that doesn’t really seem enough for saving your child’s life."

Kerenza, Petra's mum

Wiltshire Air Ambulance is a charity and relies on donations to continue saving lives.

Brandon has run the London Marathon for Wiltshire Air Ambulance and the Royal United Hospital and he and his wife play Wiltshire Air Ambulance’s lottery, which raises funds for the charity.

At the time of Petra’s illness the family lived in a new housing estate called Quaker’s Road, Devizes, close to Police Headquarters in London Road, where Wiltshire Air Ambulance was based. They and other residents of the Quakers’ estate also fundraised for Wiltshire Air Ambulance by holding a carol concert and Christmas procession.

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