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As a registered nurse, Morgan Strickland of Meridian knew having medical transport available was important. But when her son Jack needed life-saving care, she realized how vital an ambulance specializing in newborn care could be.
Two-year-old Jack Reynolds reaches for the microphone as mom Morgan Strickland tells of the importance of neonatal transport to her family.
Jack, now an active 3-year-old, was transferred to UMMC in the facility's ambulance customized to care for babies.
Families throughout Mississippi now have access to that care in a new neonatal AMR ambulance built on a Ford E-450. Its hydraulic lift smooths transfer of neonatal incubators, and an exterior camera makes operation of the 14,500-pound vehicle safer.
The vehicle was commissioned Thursday morning with IV fluid, dyed pink and blue, splashed across its windshield by care team members, former neonatal patients Jack Reynolds and Paisley Benson and their mothers, Morgan Strickland and Kristie Benson, respectively.
Stephen Houck, UMMC's manager of neonatal and pediatric transport, said, “This vehicle is a custom-built neonatal intensive care room on wheels.”
On receiving a request for transporting a critical baby, a team from UMMC quickly boards the ambulance and heads toward the outlying hospital. AMR provides a trained ambulance driver. On reaching the patient, UMMC's team adds to the care already underway and returns with the child to UMMC.
UMMC and AMR put the new ambulance into service Dec. 2. It is now UMMC's front-line ambulance for its neonatal transport program.
Houck, a registered nurse and paramedic, said, "We've provided specialized ground transportation for babies for many years, and this vehicle will enable us to build on that service.”
Nurses Kathy Hamilton and Lauren Russell, members of the neonatal transport care team at UMMC, move an incubator to the new neonatal ambulance.
Strickland's son Jack, weighing 1.8 pounds at birth, had come home to Meridian after a stay at UMMC's neonatal intensive care unit. He developed pneumonia and was struggling to breathe, Strickland said, prompting a trip first to Rush Foundation Hospital and then to the pediatric intensive care unit at the state's only children's hospital in Jackson.
“For parents, having that ambulance to take your child to Batson Children's Hospital is one less thing to worry about,” she said. “If anything happens en route, the care team is prepared for that. It's what they do.”
Stan Alford, AMR's operations manager said, “UMMC and AMR jointly designed this ambulance. We drew from the designs of similar new ambulances in other states. Such vehicles are not commonplace; only specialized hospitals provide these services.”
The new vehicle differs from conventional ambulances in several ways. Wider and longer than regular ambulances, it has additional seating for a larger crew, more oxygen outlets and a refrigerator for a wider variety of medications. The hydraulic lift keeps incubators level for a smooth transfer from ambulance to hospital.
Teams can fasten two rolling newborn incubators to brackets in the floor.
“With the added capacity this truck will enable our teams to transport two babies from two different mothers or two sets of twins,” Houck said.
Russell shows how an incubator fits inside the new neonatal ambulance.
Houck said he was pleased the vehicle has an additional seat in the patient compartment not found in his team's previous neonatal and pediatric ambulances. “That extra seat will enable physicians in training to ride and work with our team,” he said. “That's consistent with UMMC's mission as a teaching hospital.”
In 2016, UMMC transported 240 critically ill newborns from outlying hospitals using the previous ambulance. AMR will keep the older vehicle as a back-up for the new truck.
AMR will own, maintain and insure the vehicle and provide the driver and fuel for every call.
American Emergency Vehicles built the ambulance at its plant near Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Celebrating the commissioning of a new AMR neonatal ambulance for Batson Children's Hospital are, from left, nurse Emily Jones, AMR driver Cassetta McGee, neonatal transport team medical director Dr. Kelly Hersey, nurse Kathy Hamilton, UMMC neonatal and pediatric transport manager Stephen Houck, Kristie Benson and daughter Paisley, Morgan Strickland and son Jack Reynolds, AMR driver Robert Whitley, nurse Lauren Russell and AMR public affairs manager Jim Pollard.
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