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November 23, 2011

Mo. EMTs design kid-friendly ambulance

By Janese Silvey
The Columbia Daily Tribune

COLUMBIA, Mo. — A few years ago, University of Missouri Children's Hospital's pediatric transport team picked up infant twins who both needed ventilation.

The ambulance had room for a mobile incubator for one baby, but a nurse had to manually help the other during the hours-long ambulance ride.

That's when emergency medical technicians John Wood and Dan McGavock got an idea for a custom ambulance that would have room for two patients and keep emergency crews safer.

This morning, the team unveiled that new state-of-the-art ambulance.

Unlike traditional ambulances — which have rear-loading access for patients who then lie with crews on one side and supplies on the other — the new ambulance has a side-loading door on each side. That means patients lie with two swivel seats in between them and cabinets of supplies on both sides.

Wood said it's safer for nurses and crews who provide help in the back of an ambulance.

In the past, side seats for care providers had only a lap belt, and those providers often would have to stand up and reach over the patient to get supplies — not safe if the driver has to swerve or make a quick stop for a deer or other obstacle in the road.

The new setup allows providers to be buckled up with lap and shoulder belts and to stay seated even if they need to reach for supplies.

The custom-made ambulance cost $142,000; traditional ambulances cost about $100,000. Twelve Mid-Missouri Walmart and Sam's stores held fundraisers last year to pick up the costs for one, and the hospital paid for a second.

The pediatric transport team annually averages 500 patients, most of whom are being taken from other emergency rooms to MU Children's Hospital for a longer stay. Patients come from all over Missouri and neighboring states, which means the ride can be long for youngsters who already aren't feeling well.

To make it more comfortable, the ambulance is kid-friendly: with windows, not standard in traditional ambulances, a seat for Mom or Dad, colorful cartoon paintings and a flat-screen TV.

"That's anesthesia, right there," McGavock said, pointing to a "Shrek" movie playing in the ambulance this morning.

"A 5- or 6-year-old is already scared," Wood said. "They don't understand being sick; they're around new people; they've been poked on by nurses in the emergency room. We want to make this portion a little bit of an adventure for them."

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