Pediatric Care by Road and Air

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For 35 years, Transport Team has flown, or driven, to the rescue

In June 2012, Huntley Martin, born nearly four weeks early and unable to breathe on his own hours later, lay in a hospital nursery in Sebring, FL, a town without emergency pediatric services. Amy Martin, his mom, was waiting for her son to travel by helicopter to All Children’s Hospital, a St. Petersburg-based member of Johns Hopkins Medicine, for care. “I was in shock that my baby was being taken away from me, and I didn’t know how sick I was,” says Martin, who had to stay in Sebring overnight. After the transport team arrived, though, Martin felt more comfortable. “They had everything to ensure Huntley got to the hospital safely.”

Celebrating its 35th anniversary this year, All Children’s Critical Care Transport Team–which includes a nurse, a respiratory therapist or a paramedic, and an EMT–provides mobile intensive care services to children in Florida and beyond. Started in 1977, the team was initially created to transport neonatal patients. Today, the team uses three ambulances and one helicopter to transport 1,500 children annually, often traveling hours to towns, cruise ship ports, and even international locations for patients.

“These patients are often in an emergency center without pediatric specialization,” says Susan Byrd, RN, BSN, CPEN, Emergency Center Director. “They need to get to our facility for the next level of care.”

Before departing though, the team stabilizes its young patients. “Most people think that our only job is to transport the kids to All Children’s,” says Julie Bacon, RN, Chief Flight Nurse. “But our first job is to bring critical care to that patient.” So the ambulances and helicopter are stocked with ventilators, medications, and other equipment. “We can basically do everything an ICU can do,” Bacon adds.
The team also takes care of the entire family. “It’s a very odd thing we do, going in and taking the child from their parents,” says Cheryl O’Neil-Gardner, RN. “It takes time to instill confidence in parents that we will care for their child in a loving, supportive manner.”

Last June, O’Neil-Gardner was Huntley’s transport nurse. She explained to Martin what would happen once he got to the hospital. “She bent down and just really talked to me,” Martin says. “That meant so much.” Strapped in an isolette, Huntley then took the 46-minute flight to All Children’s, where he was treated for one month before going home.

Recently, Huntley celebrated his first birthday with a fishing-themed party. “All Children’s saved his life,” Martin says. “And they took care of us too.”

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