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Taking to the Skies to Help Infants

Desert Regional helicopter service is saving lives

By Lauren Del Sarto
Desert Regional’s helicopter team includes (left to right): Shilo Dantzer, RRT, Rick Terukina, NNP-BC, Courtney Fodrey, RN, Bob Piecuch, MD

One of the scariest times in a person’s life is when a baby is born with the immediate need for medical care. Fortunately for families the Coachella Valley, comprehensive care for preemies and high-risk infants is available at Desert Regional Medical Center’s Women and Infants Center.

But what if your baby is born in Blythe and services needed are hours away?

Desert Regional is now able to help families in outlying communities more effectively with their neonatal helicopter service and specially-trained medical transport team. Launched in March, the service cuts travel time from harrowing hours down to lifesaving minutes.

“Our facility is really the only facility of its type to take care of sick newborns until you get to Phoenix and Scottsdale,” says flight team member Shilo Dantzer, RRT. “We’ve been doing ground transports for a long time, but we now have the ability to fly to other facilities which gets us to those in need much quicker.”

The neonatal team includes neonatologists, clinical nurse specialists, neonatal nurse practitioners, registered nurses, respiratory care practitioners, an occupational therapist, social workers and discharge planners.

The current area covered includes 29 Palms and Palo Verde Hospital in Blythe, but expansion is underway. Desert Regional is speaking with hospitals in outer lying areas such as Victorville and Barstow to expand the service.

These facilities do not have a NICU or the capability to take care of premature infants or babies that are in respiratory distress or have infections, says team member Rick Terukina, MSN, NNP. Most of them are wellbaby nurseries, so even if the baby needs IV fluids, that baby needs to be transported out of that institution.

“A baby on a ventilator is certainly in critical condition. Our goal is to get that baby back for parents, and any efforts that shorten that period are commendable,” says Robert Piecuch, MD.

“We always stop by mom’s room to visit and leave her with a photo and 24/7 contact information,” says Dantzer. “And when they are discharged, they can come in and we provide full services.”

Standard services offered at the Women and Infant Center are extended to these families. Social workers are available to find resources for those who need help with lodging, transportation, medical equipment or other family needs. For example, the Hanson House is a nearby charity that provides lodging for families of the critically ill in local hospitals.

This team of traveling heroes is grateful for the additional time gained to do their job successfully. “A lot of times when we roll into the nursery, we get a big sigh of relief, or we see big smiles,” says Dantzer. “They are very happy to see us.”

For more information, contact Desert Regional’s Women and Infant Center at (760) 323.6511 or visit www.desertregional.com/our-services/womens-infants-center

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