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Travelling With a Baby: Meet the Outstanding Neonatal Transport Team

Travelling with a baby involves more than a packed suitcase for Saskatchewan’s Neonatal Transport Team. To ensure our province’s tiniest and most vulnerable babies reach their destination safely, this talented team takes on one of the most critical tasks in the business of saving lives.

“The responsibility of this team is to assess, plan, implement, and evaluate the stability of a newborn baby throughout the entire duration of an emergency transport,” says Adele Riehl, Manager of NICU and NICU Transport. “They perform total patient care that allows newborn babies to be safely transported while receiving the essential care they need.”

From left to right: Gail Kizlyk Transport Nurse, Dawn Korol Transport Nurse, Miranda Grona RN

Small in size but stellar in performance, the team consists of two Registered Nurses, one of whom is the Transport Nurse who leads and offers advanced skills in the scope of practice. Travelling from northern communities as far as Stony Rapids and Swift Current, the team has transported nearly 180 babies across Saskatchewan in the last year, some weighing only one pound. From prematurity, respiratory distress and congenital defects, the team is capable of transporting babies with medical challenges province-wide and also to Edmonton for those who require immediate open-heart surgery.

Baby Harper in the NICU after a transport

The team was first out of the gate when baby Harper was in need of a transport from Prince Albert to Saskatoon’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Harper and her twin brother, Knox, were born to first-time parents Lauren and James, but their arrival was more worrisome than celebratory. Harper required immediate CPR after delivery because she was not breathing, and her tiny body was placed on a cooling mat to help reduce the risk of brain damage.

“We were in complete shock,” said James. “These are our first children so we didn’t know what to expect. I looked at Harper as she was hooked up to machines and I didn’t know if she would pull through. A thousand things run through your mind.”

The fragile moments during Harper’s emergency transport are exactly what this team prepares for to make all the difference in a baby’s outcome. Thankfully, Harper was able to rise above her challenges in Saskatoon’s NICU once the transport was complete and the family arrived home in Prince Albert one week later.

Thanks to generous Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital Foundation donors, the team is equipped with a CritiCool Control Unit that helps cool a baby’s body temperature to help reduce neurological damage. Each year, the team travels to the Airborne Neonatal and Pediatric Transport Conference to absorb the newest in information and technology to enhance their skill set. Also funded through Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital Foundation donors, attendance at the conference allows the team to provide the critically-ill babies of Saskatchewan with the most up-to-date care that can secure a more promising outcome.

[Left to right]
Tracy Currie Transport RN, Dawn Korol Transport RN, Kris Johnson Transport RT, Michelle Holodniuk Transport RT, Sarah Whittington RN, Juel Ng RN

“Our team is very thankful for the funding support for continuing education for our team members. This helps keep us updated with the newest information and trends in our field of practice,” said Lori Whelan, Neonatal Transport Nurse. “The team recently transitioned to a Registered Nurse/Respiratory Therapist team which is allowing us to provide even more comprehensive coverage for the care of our babies.”

Babies will be transported to the new 48-bed NICU at Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital once construction is complete in late 2019. The NICU in the new children’s hospital will be an ample space offering comfort for families who find themselves needing extra-special care with their critically ill or premature baby. The unit will be outfitted with advanced technology and equipment suitable for even the tiniest bodies. Families will have their own private room and a dedicated sleep area to accommodate their involvement in every step of their baby’s hospital journey.

“Every single action this team takes during transport is essential to keeping a baby alive,” said Brynn Boback-Lane, President and CEO of Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital Foundation. “They are equipped with a caring heart and knowledge that ensures even the most fragile babies that are born in our province are given the best chance to grow healthier. Thank you to this extraordinary team for providing caring hands to Saskatchewan babies on-the-go.”

“We are so thankful for the care that Harper received during her transport. It was a scary time as a family but she was in caring hands,” said Lauren. “Our hearts were so full after we brought her home knowing she will be okay and that our twins will be able to grow healthy together.”

To help protect the lungs of newborn babies who need resuscitation, please make a donation to our Making Spirits Bright Holiday Giving Catalogue.

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