When a child needs urgent and specialized medical care, every second counts. Every day, emergency calls come in to Nemours Children’s Hospital from other facilities with children who exceed the scope of the partner facility’s care. The Nemours Children’s Critical Care Transport Team picks up the child, provides stabilizing medical care en route and transfers the patient to the Nemours Children’s clinicians waiting to receive them. The most critical and vulnerable patient transfer requests are for neonates: babies who are born premature or with complex medical needs. On average, 25-30 of the most medically fragile newborns are transferred into our care each month.
Transporting neonates represents an enormous challenge of skill and specialized equipment. The babies require a warm, stable, thermal environment to address their extreme sensitivity to fluctuations in temperature and vibrations. Their often-underdeveloped respiratory systems must be vigilantly monitored to ensure oxygen levels are adequately maintained. Transport pumps must provide continuous medication infusions to maintain patient heart rate, blood pressure, and fetal circulation. Ground transport, usually the preferred option for older pediatric patients, is rarely appropriate in neonate cases. In addition to a longer transport time at a critical moment in these babies’ lives, ground transportation involves more vibrations and noise, which can increase patient stress and lead to brain bleeds and hearing loss in these most fragile patients. Transfer by helicopter is the safer choice, but a special isolette is needed to provide a stable environment for the patient.
The Elinor & T.W. Miller, Jr. Foundation was able to provide funding for this life-saving piece of equipment. With the new isolette neonate patient transport times have been reduced by two thirds. This reduction in transport time leads to improved care for the most fragile of patients and better outcomes.