“In flight, we make on-the-spot decisions with the resources we have,” says 31-year-old Wanderman. “If a kid’s heart stops beating, we can’t rely on teams of doctors and CT scans.”
Before the army of specialists at the University of California San Francisco Children’s Hospital can save kids awaiting liver transplants or battling cancer, the patients must get to the Bay Area – often from hospitals as far away as Arizona or Hawaii. Flight doctor David Wanderman helps transport the region’s most delicate patients to the medical centre.
Typical equipment used by a Paediatric transport doctor:
(1) Cessna 421
San Francisco hospitals don’t have helipads, so Wanderman travels with patients in planes. “It’s cramped, though often smoother than driving,” he says. “But you can’t tell the pilot to pull over.”
(2) Incubator sled
Infants travel in a temperature-regulated incubator that’s attached to a sled equipped with oxygen, a ventilator, a monitor to display vital signs, and other life-support equipment.
(3) Mini I-Stat
From a drop of blood, this handheld device can measure pH levels, oxygen and carbon dioxide content, and electrolytes present in a patient’s system. A portable printer spits out statistics. An in-hospital i-STAT is about the size of a large cooler.
(4) Transport bag
Wheeled packs provide the essentials: antiarrhythmic and antiseizure drugs, fluids and intubation equipment.