As a mother-to-be, Jess had never remotely anticipated that her baby’s life would one day be in CareFlight’s hands.

At the 20 week mark, she learnt her baby had a small hole in her heart. However, the rest of the pregnancy went smoothly, as did the birth.

Four days after baby Alexis was born, as her parents were preparing to take her home from Royal Darwin Hospital, the nurses became worried. Alexis was yellow with jaundice and had started struggling to breathe.

She was in terrible danger.

The doctors did some tests while Jess and her husband Andy waited desperately for answers.

“When they came, I felt cold with terror. The hole in Alexis’ heart was much bigger than they’d thought. Her aorta was cutting off the blood supply,” Jess said.

Alexis needed open-heart surgery. She had anywhere from minutes to hours to live, but she was 3,130 km from a specialist who could perform the operation.

Her only hope was CareFlight.

Immediately, CareFlight flew into action.

“One of the pilots met us at the hospital and introduced himself. He guaranteed that she would get to specialist care safely. I can’t tell you how much comfort that gave me,” Jess said.

After a four-and-a half-hour flight by CareFlight medi-jet, Alexis had her operation in a specialist paediatric hospital in Melbourne.

“Today, she is so strong it’s almost hard to believe what she went through in those first days of life. She loves playing with her big sister – and of course they have written long lists for Santa already,” Jess said.

“Not a day goes by when I don’t think about what would have happened if CareFlight hadn’t been there to rescue my baby.”

Last year, CareFlight gave the gift of life to 962 critically ill or injured children.

“Without CareFlight’s service, Alexis wouldn’t be with us today. I can’t thank everyone enough,” Jess said.

“This Christmas, I’ll be doing what most parents are doing. Running around for last minute presents. Helping my excited children count down the sleeps until Santa comes.

“But most of all, I’ll be thanking my lucky stars for CareFlight. Without them, I’d have one less stocking to hang up. One less little face lighting up with happiness at the presents under the tree. And a giant hole in my heart that nothing would ever fill.”