WVU Pediatric Ground Transport Team Brings Critical Care to Your Doorstep


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – When Shawn Turak of Wheeling noticed her three-week-old son Thomas was having trouble breathing, she rushed him to the emergency room at Wheeling Hospital. In respiratory distress upon arrival, doctors began breathing treatments, placed him on oxygen and made arrangements for transport.

When the helicopter was unable to fly due to a thunderstorm, doctors contacted the Pediatric Ground Transport Team at West Virginia University Children’s Hospital.

The team, led by Melvin Wright, D.O., made an immediate assessment, placed Thomas on a ventilator and transported him to Children’s Hospital in Morgantown.

“They saved his life,” Turak said. “Given how critical he was, knowing he was being transported in his condition offered comfort in a trying time.”

Thomas spent four days at Children’s before being released. Upon follow-up with his pediatrician in Wheeling, his breathing problem reoccurred, only this time he stopped breathing. He was administered CPR and taken across the street to East Ohio Regional Medical Center where he was ventilated.

“The doctors were making arrangements for transport, but I told them I wanted him to go to WVU Children’s since they were familiar with his case,” Turak said. The Ground Transport Team went to Wheeling again and brought Thomas back to Morgantown.

Diagnosed with a severe form of reflux which caused his respiratory problems, Thomas had surgery to correct the problem, and was released from the hospital three weeks later.

Thomas is now living the life of a normal four-month old at home with his parents, Chris and Shawn, and older brother.

The Pediatric Ground Transport Team can take its state-of-the-art mobile intensive care unit anywhere in the state and surrounding areas.

“We have had a successful neonatal transport team at WVU for years, and, as the only Children’s Hospital in the state, decided to make the service available to all children throughout the state and surrounding areas,” said Giovanni Piedimonte, chair of the department of pediatrics.

The team is able to meet the special care needs of patients up to 18 years old.

Available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the team is composed of a registered nurse and respiratory therapist from the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) at WVU Children’s Hospital. Each team member is experienced in the care of critically ill children, and has received specialized training in the evaluation and treatment of children in a transport environment.

Formed just over four months ago, the team has transported close to 60 patients from 21 counties in West Virginia, and from Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. The first patient of the Pediatric Transport Team was transported from Wetzel County.

“This team meets the needs of referring institutions throughout West Virginia and the surrounding areas that have to get a critically ill child to Morgantown,” said Dr. Wright, assistant professor of pediatrics and medical director of the team. “The ground transport provides a better assessment environment, room to work, and the ability to perform necessary procedures.”

Ambulances from Jan-Care Ambulance Service and Monongalia EMS are used by the team.

“Our ground-based team complements an excellent helicopter-based service in HealthNet and provides all-weather transport capabilities and is further evidence of our commitment that no child should have to leave West Virginia for care,” said Michael Romano, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics and head of the critical care section.

The team uses the most up-to-date equipment available, including invasive and non-invasive cardio-respiratory monitoring, ventilators, emergency medications and chest drainage systems. The equipment is specifically designed for pediatric patients.

Physicians can request the team by calling 1-888-285-PICU or through the MARS Hotline at 1-304-598-600 or 1-800-982-8242.         

- WVU -

For more information:
Steve Bovino, HSC News Service, (304) 293-7087
sfb: 08-17-06

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