The Incredible Infant Transport Team
Imagine if you lived in the outskirts of BC and your one-month-old baby was having difficulty breathing and needed immediate, specialized care. The Infant Transport Team (ITT) at BC Children’s Hospital receives calls for medical emergencies such as this many times throughout the day. Their job is to bring these precious packages to BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver as quickly and safely as possible.
The ITT has a fleet of two helicopters, two fixed-wing airplanes (one turbo prop and one jet) and five ambulances, all equipped to handle neonatal, pediatric and high-risk obstetric patients. “Having three different patient populations, you have three different types of machines, for the most part, that you have to deal with,” says Fernando Grossling, a paramedic on the ITT.
The most expensive piece of medical equipment that the ITT uses is the neonatal equipment used to care for neonates (from extremely premature babies born at 23 to 24 weeks to babies who are extremely sick and born with congenital anomalies). Medical equipment plays a big role in ensuring the best health outcomes for these fragile patients. BC Children’s Hospital Foundation provides funding to the ITT to purchase state-of-the-art machines and to keep them up-to-date; the average cost of the equipment ranges between $6,000 and $200,000. The state-of-the-art transport incubator, for instance, has a built-in ventilator and monitor, and is able to keep these babies warm. The cost for this, when it’s fully outfitted with infusion pumps, is approximately $200,000.
The ITT is the only critical care paramedic-based team in the world that deals with the three drastically different patient groups; therefore, the training and education involved is quite extensive. “We were all paramedics before the ITT and we were all selected to come into the 26-member team. All of our training was done by BC Children’s and Women’s Hospital,” says Fernando. “All the intensivists in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit were involved, including the nurses and respiratory therapists. All the neonatologists in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit were involved, as well as the perinatologists in BC Women’s and midwives. We had a lot of hands-on training.”
It is a difficult job with a lot of pressure but for Fernando, being able to help children in whatever way possible makes it all worth it.
“I know I am just one link in a very vital chain to ensure that we have good outcomes for kids and that includes the doctors, nurses, the respiratory therapists, the support staff, everyone. I’m just happy to be one of those links. Seeing the good outcomes, being able to be there and give back is really rewarding,” he says. “We all started out as paramedics on the street. I worked downtown for 10 years and I never got that rewarding feeling day in and day out as I do being attached here as part of the ITT at BC Women’s and Children’s.”
Meet Vanderhoof's Olive Roberge, just one of the many kids who are doing great today, due in part to the support they received from the Infant Transport Team, and the caregivers at BC Children's.