A glimpse at what it’s like to be on the ‘Just for Kids’ Transport Team
Cart Wheels managing editor Nicholas Clark spent a day with the transport team and shares his experience here, along with photos he took along the way.
A day in the life of a Norton Children’s Hospital “Just for Kids” Transport Team member is not for the faint of heart. These individuals drop everything at a moment’s notice to quickly drive or fly to pick up a child in need of critical care at Norton Children’s Hospital. They often work under intense pressure and challenging medical situations.
The “Just for Kids” Transport Team consists of three members: a registered nurse, a respiratory therapist and an emergency medical technician. There are nine teams who are on call around the clock.
I wanted to tag along with the team on a transport to get a firsthand account at what their job is like day in and day out. I traveled with the team on a flight transport 100 miles south of Louisville and got an up-close and behind the- scenes look at this critical component to many children’s care.
Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014, 12:32 p.m.
I receive a call from Pennie Maus-Granholm, “Just for Kids” Transport Team manager, that a flight transport has been ordered from a hospital in a small town in Western Kentucky. At this moment, all I know is that the patient is just 5 weeks old — I have no other details. My mission is to high-tail it over to the transport team garage in less than 10 minutes.
I arrive to meet the team assigned to this transport — Jenny Hager, R.N.; Brenda Bolin, respiratory therapist; and Kevin Robinson, emergency medical technician. Already sweating, perhaps from nerves or the fact that it’s 90 degrees out, I get in the “Just for Kids” Mobile Intensive Care Unit. The team is ready and loaded up, and we begin the drive to Clark Regional Airport in Sellersburg, Indiana, where the team’s airplane is kept.
We arrive at the airport and pull up to the “Just for Kids” airplane — a 1980 Beechcraft King Air 200 that has been recently upgraded and refurbished thanks to a $1 million grant from Speedway. I was astounded to learn the team transports more than 200 children a year on this plane, having made trips all the way to California, Florida and even Maine.
The team does a little preparation for the flight, loading a portable incubator, called an isolette, onto the plane, along with the life port, a locking device that safely connects the isolette to the plane. I assist them in loading several other pieces of equipment, and now I am sitting on the plane, sans air conditioner, waiting for takeoff.
We are taking off, and I am given a briefing on the patient we are picking up. The baby had been experiencing a high fever and had a swollen and very red right forearm.
The plane lands at one of the smallest airports I’ve ever been to. The hospital is 15 minutes away, and an ambulance from the hospital is waiting for us on the runway. The team unloads their gear, including the life port and isolette that will safely carry the infant back to Norton Children’s Hospital. We are now en route to the hospital.
We arrive at the hospital, wheel the isolette and life port through the hallways to the pediatric unit, and are greeted by the pediatric nurse caring for the baby.
The transport team enters the patient’s room. The baby’s mother and grandmother are there waiting patiently. Hager, the team’s registered nurse, assesses the baby’s condition and makes a call to consult with Erin B. Owen, M.D., pediatric critical care doctor with Norton Children’s Hospital and U of L Physicians, on the patient’s condition and any additional instructions to prepare the baby for the trip to Louisville.
The baby is stable and ready to be wheeled off to the ambulance in the isolette. The family cannot accompany the transport team on the flight due to space restrictions. Understandably, the mother is very emotional leaving her baby in the hands of medical personnel she just met. Robinson assures the family they will take good care of their baby.
We are leaving the hospital for the airport to get back on board the plane and head to Louisville.
Back on the plane, the team completes a head-to-toe examination of the patient, focusing on the affected arm. They check the baby’s vital signs every 15 to 30 minutes, and the baby remains stable throughout the duration of the flight. Some of the swelling goes down in the baby’s right arm, however the condition still requires medical attention by pediatric specialists at Norton Children’s Hospital.
We arrive at Clark Regional Airport and transport the patient to Norton Children’s Hospital’s medical/surgical unit via the mobile intensive care unit. This is where I say my goodbye to the amazing crew I was honored to spend time with.
While I was only a passenger, I felt like I was part of the team. But what struck me most was that the transport team is responsible for hundreds of patients during the course of a year, yet they treat every child like their own. While the job isn’t at all glamorous, the team’s dedication to ensuring children have access to the most advanced pediatric medical care in our region is the reason they are heroes in my eyes.
And, by the way, the baby went home three days later after the condition improved.
Want to learn more?
The Children’s Hospital Foundation, in partnership with our friends from Speedway, has provided longstanding support of the transport team. To find out how you can support their efforts or for more information on the “Just for Kids” Transport Team, visit NortonChildrensHospital.com.