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Okla. Ambulance Provides Neonatal Care on the Go

TULSA, Okla. -- St. Francis Health System uses its biggest ambulance to take care of its littlest patients. Since October, St. Francis has been using an ambulance specially designed for patients headed to the neonatal intensive care unit.

It is the only such ambulance in Oklahoma. "It's just like the neonatal intensive care unit on wheels," said Shannon Filosa, the executive director of The Children's Hospital at St. Francis. The $251,000 ambulance was paid for entirely by money raised by the St. Francis Auxiliary, a network of volunteers for the health system. It has enough room for the patient, a respiratory therapist and a specially-trained nurse.

Sometimes a second nurse is needed and staff training to work on the ambulance also occasionally go on runs, said Jill Ruskoski, clinical supervisor and transport coordinator for the NICU. It travels often to other hospitals in Tulsa and goes up to about 150 miles away, said Rhonda Speyer, clinical manager of the NICU.

So far, it has made an average of about 20 runs a month. The vehicle has enough room to transport twins if necessary and includes immediate access to oxygen and other gases used in oxygen mixtures that babies need to help them breathe properly. It was designed specifically for St. Francis by medical professionals.

Matt and Lindsay Arnold were grateful for the ambulance recently when their third child, Jackson, had respiratory problems a few days after birth. They were in McAlester, where they live, and the ambulance took Jackson to The Children's Hospital at St. Francis in Tulsa. "It was rough leaving him knowing we couldn't go with him, but we knew he'd be in good hands," Matt Arnold said. Soon after transport, Jackson's breathing was stabilized and he was doing well. With the specialty ambulance, nearly any procedure a baby could need can be done during transport. Newborns, particularly those who are premature, often have breathing problems.

That is why each patient transported has a dedicated respiratory therapist who can create various oxygen mixtures. The nurses who also ride with the patients are specially trained to put in a central line to draw blood and help monitor the baby. With its unique capabilities, the ambulance should be considered an important tool for health care providers in the area, Filosa said.

"We're committed to being available to them as their resource," she said. "That's a service we make available to the community." Neonatal intensive care unit ambulance Cost: $251,000 Eight seats About 25 hospital staff trained Makes about 20 runs a month

Shannon Muchmore 918-581-8378

shannon.muchmore@tulsaworld.com

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