By Angel MedFlight Contributor
They are our smallest patients and thus need very delicate and specialized care. They are the neonatal patients, babies up to 28 days old. When one of these precious newborns is in need of air medical transport, our highly experienced neonatal flight crew is called in to provide this form of expert care. Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Kim Allred heads Angel MedFlight’s neonatal team.
Neonatal care is for any type of infant who is in neonatal intensive care (NICU) or some type of special care nursery. Allred says on Angel MedFlight our neonatal patients are those who have been displaced for whatever reason, the family was on vacation or out-of-town and they want to take the baby back home. Angel MedFlight has had two multi-baby transports from Mesa, Arizona’s Banner Desert Medical Center and Cardon Children’s Medical Center which specializes in multiple births.
Just what is it that makes Angel MedFlight’s neonatal air ambulance service stand out? Allred says it’s the door-to-door service. “My team will pick up the baby from the sending NICU, follow and take care of that baby. The one team will follow them clear until we get them to their destination, whether it be a NICU, their home or wherever they need to go.” Allred says there doesn’t have to be another crew for the ambulance or another crew to get them to the facility. “We take them door to door.”
Allred says her team of nurses, flight medics and nurse practitioners have a high level of compassion for the families they transport. “This is a very stressful time for these families. Whether it’s a premature baby or a full-term baby who’s sick, there’s somewhat of a loss of control for these parents because of the medical team in the hospital that has taken care of them. These parents get into a comfort zone with that hospital because those nurses and doctors have taken care of their baby since the day it was born.” She says it can be very stressful for the parents to have a new team member come in and meet them “and never mind the whole flying part and the actual transport part. Just taking them out of a comfort zone to take them to a new facility is stressful. It requires definite compassion.”
Each Angel MedFlight neonatal air ambulance jet is equipped with the latest technology in medical devices and monitoring capability. The newborns fly in a neonatal intensive care unit in the sky. Allred says our neonatal flights include a Babypod and if necessary, a more advanced Isolette can be acquired for the baby’s transport.
In addition to the Babypod where the newborns are kept secure and comfortable, Angel MedFlight’s specialized equipment also includes constant monitoring devices. This equipment is continuously checking vital signs, temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate. “Some of the newborns need intravenous fluids so we have IV fluids and respiratory support. If they need just a little bit of oxygen or a ventilator we have all of those capabilities,” says Allred.
One of the aims of the neonatal team is to make the transport as seamless as possible, matching the care provided at the hospital. “I know what each baby is using at the sending NICU and I make sure that we have all of that equipment to achieve the same thing in flight,” says Allred.
Allred says it’s difficult to single out a specific neonatal flight which has impacted her the most. “I can actually tell you about every transport that we’ve gone on. Each family, each of their stories is very individual and special to them and allowing us to be part of their family for that short amount of time is special.”
Home is where the heart is and taking these newborns home touches the hearts of our neonatal team. Allred says when the Angel MedFlight jet is closing in on the destination and starts to descend, “usually the mom, sometimes the dad, the realization that they are almost home brings tears to their eyes because they get to go home. Even though the baby still might need to be in the hospital, just the fact that they are in their own comfort zone, their own home environment, it’s always very touching to watch.” Allred says ”everybody is in tears because it’s just a happy moment for them to be home.”
In terms of advances on the horizon for neonatal air ambulance service, there is not yet a machine out there that will change diapers. Allred says with a chuckle, “No, we still get the pleasure of doing that.”