A brave little boy who nearly died after a wooden pole fell on his head met Boris Johnson today at the official opening of a helipad which saved his life.
Eight-year-old Harvey Tagorti was the first child to ever be flown into St George’s Hospital after a wooden swing structure collapsed and hit him on the head at Cherry Lane Adventure Playground, in Crawley, on April 8.
Harvey with Boris on the roof
He and his mother were flown to St George’s hospital in Tooting in just 11 minutes – a journey that would normally have taken at least 35 minutes by road.
Little Harvey had to undergo two operations, was in a coma for eight days, and even had a piece of his scull temporarily implanted in his stomach as part of the medical procedure – which his mum initially explained as an Easter Egg so as not to shock him.
While he was in a coma he missed his eighth birthday, however, thanks to life-saving treatment at St George’s where he spent four weeks, he is now back home with his brother Dylan, 10, and mum Faye Hankin, 29, and they are planning to throw him a big celebration.
On the day of the incident Miss Hankin, who works as a cleaner, finished work at 1.30pm and was off to meet Harvey who had been playing with his brother under the watchful eye of her sister-in-law.
She said: "They have swings which are attached to telegraph poles and one of these snapped and hit him on his head and knocked him unconscious.
"I got a phone call and went straight away. Harvey was still there when I got there. The paramedics had just got there and were trying to put a cannula straight into him.
"He tried to push and kick people away and he was screaming but he was sort of in and out of consciousness.
"I got to go with him in the air ambulance but I still don’t think it has sunk in yet. I’m still in shock."
Picture: @StGeorgesTrust (Twitter)
At St George’s Hospital Harvey came straight down the lift and was given a CT scan. He was then taken to A&E where they carried out more tests and covered him in a warm blanket.
Miss Hankin said: "There I was told he had a fracture to the skull and bleeding on the brain and where it was bleeding there was so much pressure – it was pushing his brain to the other side. I still think I’m in shock.
"They had to put a bolt in his head to measure the pressure and he had to have an emergency operation.
"They told us he had a 50/50 chance of making it through the operation. My mind went blank after that.
"But it was a success and we saw the trolley being wheeled back and I jumped up and wanted to make sure it was him. It was such a relief to know he came back from theatre.
"The nurses would say he is holding on three outcomes; one he’d not wake up, two he would be brain damaged and three he can wake up and be normal.
"Then after two to three days the surgeon came and said ‘he’s more than likely to wake up’.
"I don’t know how I did keep myself together but you do have to stay strong and be positive.
"His older brother Dylan was really worried he kept having visions of it happening."
Harvey, a pupil at Milton Mount Primary School, is now on the road to recovery.
He said: "The only bit [I remember] was falling in a muddy puddle and I went and told my friend’s mum and then I got a Kit Kat and went back, then it happened."
During an emotional reunion today the family got to say thank you to the paramedics, which Miss Hankin described as amazing.
Stuart Plumbley, 50, from Caterham, is a paramedic for Kent, Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance and accompanied Harvey in the helicopter.
He said: "It is a great relief and great result that Harvey is doing well because he was a very sick little boy at the time.
"When you know they are quite sick, and you are up against it, you are hoping all your training will come to fruition and it did on that day.
"I’m really happy he’s doing well – it’s put a smile on my face."
Crawley Borough Council closed all four of its adventure playgrounds in the aftermath of the incident and they were reopened earlier this month when they were deemed safe.
The helipad had only been open a day when it saved Harvey’s life.
Planning for the helipad began in 2010 - a year after St George’s was designated a major trauma centre - and building was finished in March 2014.
It cost £5m to build with a £1m donation from the Helicopter Emergency Landing Pad (HELP) Appeal.
It is the first London helipad south of the Thames and will routinely receive patients from the Kent, Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance as well as the London Air Ambulance and possibly further afield if required.