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Saving babies by helicopter - Getting specialized care faster


It was a first for the Region. Recently, STARS Air Ambulance successfully transferred a Regina Neonatal Intensive Care team and isolette to a baby in need in Estevan, cutting the time it takes Region staff to reach these patients in half.

The STARS team that helped make this flight a reality. Photo credit: STARS team.

“We’ve been trying to get this lined up perfectly to execute, and this was the first time it did,” said Tom Sorensen, Manager of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). “Carrying an isolette for a newborn baby required STARS Air Ambulance to adjust the choppers, adding brackets to ensure everything was properly secured.”

This adjustment was just one of many logistical pieces Sorensen needed to work out with the STARS crew, but he was determined to make the plan work.

“Using STARS cuts travel time in half. It’s providing a lot faster treatment to these babies where there is no NICU,” Sorensen explains.

The NICU team in Regina has specialized equipment and training other hospitals don’t have, which means when a baby is in need, they travel to the patient and bring them back to the NICU in Regina.

In the past, the NICU team would travel by ambulance, a specialized neonatal ambulance with equipment small enough to treat the tiny patients. While everyone works to make the trip as quick as possible, travelling by air is simply faster.

The STARS team that helped make this flight a reality. Photo credit: STARS team.

“Using the ground unit means we have to pull an EMT crew off duty in Regina. They then pick up the specialized neo-ambulance from the garage and head to the hospital to pick up the team,” Sorensen said. “With this latest trip, STARS was on the roof before the team was even done packing.”

Train, train, train
To become part of the neonatal transport team, experience is a must. “Nurses must have at least three to five years of service coupled with the specialized neonatal training they receive before working with babies,” Sorensen said. “Then they can become part of the specialized team that travels to other hospitals that don’t have a NICU.”

To be part of the STARS team required even more training. “They had to be trained for the helicopter, too,”Sorensen said. Now, with the first trip under their belt, Sorensen said the team is relieved.

“It was exciting. We’ve been trying for a long time for it to be perfect. Knowing that we can get there that much faster, especially with an already sick brand new baby, means these babies are going to do better.”