Maternal Transport Team Stops In Tyler To Introduce New Program To Families
By COSHANDRA DILLARD Staff Writer
Local medical crews and families were on hand Friday to tour a new aircraft designed to transport mothers and/or babies who need to be taken to another facility.
The Medical City Children's Hospital in Dallas has a maternal transport team that made stops in Longview on Thursday and then Tyler before "going live" with its new program Monday.
The transport program, which serves all of Texas and neighboring states, is part of the Advanced Maternal and Newborn Institutes, focusing on high-risk pregnancies.
Terence and Laura Thedford attended the tour, with their 18-month-old son, Thomas. As active members of the Amazing Little Hearts -- a support group for families of children with heart defects -- they wanted to have a presence at the event.
Having the transport available in East Texas is also a relief for parents such as the Thedfords. It enlists the help of specially trained maternal transport registered nurses in an aircraft that features a self-contained mobile intensive care unit.
The Thedfords traveled to Dallas several times for heart procedures at Medical City Children's Hospital. Thomas has hypoplastic left heart syndrome. The left side of his heart is underdeveloped, so it doesn't pump blood efficiently. This condition typically requires three operations before they turn 5. Thomas receives palliative care and has one more surgery scheduled.
"We could have needed it," Laura Thedford said. "It's something we may need in the future."
Her husband, Terence, added, "Even as they grow up, they need continued care. There's always a possibility that they would need transport like this."
Gretchen Ervin, 30, of Tatum, also of Amazing Little Hearts, came with her 1-year-old daughter, Sophie. She was transported via ground ambulance when she was 2 months old. She was later diagnosed with a heart condition. Medical transporters were unable to send Sophie via helicopter because of the weather conditions at the time. With Medical City's new air ambulance, the crew can fly in most weather conditions.
"I think it would be really helpful for families in the future," Mrs. Ervin said. "It could have made a big difference for her."
If local physicians decide it is imperative for a mother or baby to receive care at another facility, they would coordinate through Medical City's call center. Doctors there then help triage the patient over the phone.
It's ideal for women suffering from pregnancy induced hypertension, pree-clampsia or preterm labor.
Citing a Texas Department of State Health Services registry, Karen Muery, an advanced practice nurse and manager at the advanced Maternal Newborn Institute, said they monitor clusters of cases of heart defects and other diagnoses.
"There are a lot of babies born in this area that have heart diagnoses, gastroschisis and spina bifida," she said.
Giving mom and baby care at the same time is also integral to the transport program.
"Our main thing is to keep mom and baby together and get them to a facility as quickly as possible," said Pam Evangelopoulos, registered nurse for the maternal transport team. "We all know that the best incubator for a baby is mom's tummy."
Medical City officials said their air ambulance is the only known maternal transport team in the state. They are eager to work with local hospitals and staff.
"It's a relationship that we'll build over time," Chris Hawes, a spokeswoman for the hospital, said. "We want to make sure they understand it's a partnership. We're not here to take someone's patients.
"There are a lot of good physicians in this areas and a lot of good hospitals. During those cases in which they want to reach out to another specialist we want them to know that we were there for them."
Medical City Children's Hospital's Laura Kennedy gives a tour of the Medical City Children's Hospital's air ambulance to Tatum resident Marshall Ervin, 9, during the plane's stop at the Tyler Jet Center on Friday. The small plane is the only known air ambulance in the state with a maternal transport team. (Staff Photo By Sarah A. Miller)