Precious Cargo - Our Quest for a New Pediatric Transport Unit

Help us reach our goal of a new ambulance for our Pediatric Emergency Transport Team!
Please, give what you can.


Participants at this year’s Sunburst were wowed by the attention-grabbing ambulance near the starting line. Yes, the outside looks pretty cool, but everyone knows it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

Memorial has three mobile intensive care units to transport critically ill newborns and pediatric patients from outlying hospitals to Memorial Children’s Hospital. 

For more than 20 years, Memorial has transported critical kids either from a referring hospital to Memorial, or sometimes hundreds of miles away. As more services are available through Memorial Children’s Hospital, the need to send children far away for care decreases, but the number of hospitals relying on Memorial for advanced care is increasing.

Pediatric Transport Team

Today, Memorial serves 22 referring hospitals across Northern Indiana and Southwestern Michigan, averaging 400 pediatric transports a year. That kind of demand begins to take a toll on an ambulance, which is why Memorial Health Foundation made a new pediatric transport unit a funding priority.

“When you look at all the new technology that we envision will go into this new unit, it will take us to a whole new level of providing care during the transport of critical patients,” said Michaeleen Conlee, Senior Director of Women’s and Children’s Services. “It will ensure that we can continue to provide high-quality services to keep children close to home for many years into the future.”

Memorial Health Foundation helped Conlee’s team secure a $25,000 grant from AEP to put toward the new unit. That amount will be combined with the proceeds from Sunburst 2012 and 2013, as well as other contributions, all of which could put a new ambulance on the road by next year.

It can take as long as six months to build a new ambulance. And, unlike most pediatric and neonatal transports in service today, the new rig will be designed from the ground up specifically to care for children. It will incorporate the latest in patient/passenger safety, as well as the most up-to-date mobile medical equipment available. “We’re pretty excited about this,” said Deniese Haughee. Now in her second year as Pediatric Transport Coordinator, she has been a transport nurse for Memorial since the program first started. The ambulance will boast a new ventilator, and the newest cardiac monitor available, which combines high-tech with high-touch like never before.

“It’s all about reducing anxiety as much as possible,” Haughee explained. “A young patient is already under enough stress. Even the squeeze of a conventional blood pressure cuff can make a child anxious. This new technology gives us all the vital information we need to provide great care while giving our young patients one less thing to be anxious about.”

Of course, the onboard TV/DVD system that allows kids and their family to watch cartoons or their favorite movie doesn’t hurt, either.

New features will keep patients, parents and crew safe during transport. All the equipment needed to care for a patient will be within reach from team members’ seats. Most conventional ambulances require the care team to stand or move around the “box,” which is not ideal when the vehicle is moving.

The pediatric transport team consists of a pediatric ICU R.N., a respiratory therapist and a pediatric trained paramedic, depending on the nature of the call. Members of the South Bend Fire Department provide the professionally trained drivers.

Once the new rig is up and running, plans are to “retire” the oldest ambulance from active duty and convert it into a mobile simulator lab that the Memorial team can use to provide on-site training to staff at referring hospitals.

 “We want to bring the training to them so they can be as familiar as possible with our services, and so we can work more closely together to care for the patients they’re entrusting to us,” said Lori Allen, Perinatal and Pediatric Outreach Coordinator.