Tiny babies get expert care in semi-sized ambulance

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Whether it's an accident, illness, or an extremely premature baby, getting a child to the hospital with the right kind of support can make the difference between life or death.

Technology, time, and a new semi-sized ambulance are giving the tiniest of babies a better chance of survival.

Packed inside a semi-tractor trailer sized emergency vehicle is lifesaving equipment.

"Having an ambulance this big allows us to have all of the equipment we need all the way up from a newborn all the way up to someone who's 21-year-old," E.M.T. Trevor Miller-Evans says. "It gives us the ability to bring a fully mobile ICU with us to these other outlying facilities.”

Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital got the custom designed Lifeline-5 five unit in January 2016.

The unit has enough seating for parents with special 5-point seat belts to improve safety. 

"We have a little window there that family members can look through and on the side of the wall here we actually have a phone that they can contact each other," he explains.

Another feature is the imported flooring. It’s made to dampen vibration and sound to protect the delicate brains of newborns. 

When seconds count, instead of hitting the road, there is also a quicker option: A fully equipped helicopter. 

Along with the stretcher, there is a compact ventilator and enough equipment to care for children in need.  

"Literally we can take all the advanced practice that you find in an ICU, anything short of surgery, and we can do it here," says Julie Bacon, who serves as program manager and chief flight nurse.  

She says this almost $200,000 isolette incubator converts the helicopter into a flying neonatal intensive care unit. 

"We are able to give babies gases, medical gases, other than oxygen that will open up their lungs, we are able to cool a baby down in transport that will protect its brain for later own, we are able to breathe for them so rapidly 6-7-8 hundred times a minute with a very special ventilator," Bacon explains. 

Of the 1,400 transports they make per year, about one third are in the air. Bacon says the choice depends on the child's condition, time, and traffic.

"We don't use mileage. It’s a big difference when you go from St. Petersburg to Tampa at four in the morning or four in the afternoon."

These options and advances help make Bacon's 20-year career even more rewarding,

“You're changing every day the lives of family and there's no better job than that," Bacon said.