Lifeline Ambulance Transport Service at Children's Hospital
Beginning in the early 1980s, a few years after the Haslam Family Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Children’s Hospital was opened, a very important transport service was added to the hospital to bring in premature babies from hospitals in surrounding areas. This service consisted of a transport team and one ambulance called Lifeline. Now, nearly 30 years and three ambulances later, the Children’s Hospital transport service has multiple dedicated neonatal and pediatric teams available 24/7, and two Lifeline ambulances, including a new highly advanced, custom-made neonatal/pediatric transport ambulance acquired just a few months ago.
Funded by a generous donation from this area’s 24 Walmart and Sam’s Clubs, the new Lifeline ambulance, which is around the size of an RV, cost $250,000. The inside of the ambulance is equipped like an intensive care unit room and has a generator for backup power.
Because of its size, the new Lifeline ambulance can bring more of a child’s family members along on the transport. It can also fit up to two transport teams (made up of nurses, neonatologists, nurse practitioners and respiratory therapists) when transporting more than one child. Enough supplies are on the ambulance that any size patient, from a premature infant to a 21-year-old, can be cared for upon transfer to the Children’s Hospital NICU or Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU).
“Parents have told me many times how thankful they are that their child can be transferred to the hospital in such a high-tech ambulance,” said Greg Bohanan, Children’s Hospital’s Lead Transport Tech responsible for upkeep of the ambulance and driving it on transport calls. “Having an ICU room on wheels is critical and can even make the difference between life and death.”
The new Lifeline ambulance is as high tech on the inside as it is visually appealing on the outside with artwork that makes it look like a child designed it. Another important aspect of the new ambulance is the fact that it goes on over 365 calls each year, an average of more than one transport per day. A transport run made by the Lifeline ambulance could last up to four hours each way, when a typical ambulance only goes on a 20-minute run.
“Lifeline is an invaluable resource for East Tennessee. It gives quick access to Children’s Hospital for the region’s most fragile patients,” said Sheri Smith, R.N., Nursing Director for Critical Care Services at Children’s Hospital. “As the only Comprehensive Regional Pediatric Center in East Tennessee, it is our role to make sure these children receive the best possible pediatric care.”
Each year, Children’s Hospital transport teams travel 40,000 miles to 25-30 hospitals within a 100-mile radius of Children’s Hospital. The Lifeline ambulance will now extend the hospital’s PICU and NICU farther than ever before. “The Lifeline ambulance is an asset to Children’s Hospital, which we were able to afford through the generosity of the East Tennessee community, and Walmart and Sam’s Clubs,” Bohanan said. Special thanks goes to Walmart and Sam’s Clubs, which raised the money for Lifeline through employee fundraising, community events and the sale of paper balloons at store locations.