May 16, 2019 — Wet weather couldn’t stop my visit with the Children’s Hospital Emergency Transport (CHET) team. After all, this team is accustomed to doing their job rain or shine!

Heading out in the CHET Kid Ambulance

The CHET team provides 24-hour emergency critical care transport to more than 2,000 neonatal and pediatric patients a year in San Diego, Imperial and Riverside Counties, as well as other areas by request. There are two transport teams: one dedicated to caring for pediatric patients and one for neonatal patients. Each team is equipped with self-contained medical equipment to provide expert critical care, and is able to transport patients by ambulance, airplane or helicopter. Currently, the team has four ambulances; one fixed-wing airplane; and one dedicated helicopter, with three more available if needed.

Riding with Tim in the ambulance (Note: not a real baby)

Members of the CHET team have extensive experience and training. The neonatal team alone has more than 300 years of combined experience! Members of the CHET team have extensive experience and training. The neonatal team alone has more than 300 years of combined experience! To be considered for one of the teams, candidates must have a minimum of five years of experience in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) or the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and be certified in pediatric advanced life support.

I began this visit by hitching a ride on the CHET Kid Ambulance to nearby Montgomery Field, where the helicopters and airplane are stationed.  My guides today were Neonatal Transport Team Manager Tim Nunemacher and PICU Transport Team Manager Shelby Standefer. They explained to me that the ambulance is specialized for the needs of our smallest patients, including a ramp to load in stretchers (which are customized to fit either the airplane or the helicopters) and the capability to transport babies on ECMO (a heart-lung bypass device).

Inside the CHET airplane

Once we arrived at the airport, I got to check out the CHET airplane and participate in a drill in which we needed to evacuate the plane’s cabin when it began to fill with smoke.  I’m happy to say we all got out quickly! Next, we went inside to meet with members of this incredible team. I am so impressed with the dedication of this group. Whether it’s 2 o’clock in the afternoon or 2 o’clock in the morning, this team is ready to go to wherever there is a patient in need.

After some donuts and coffee, Tim and Shelby stamped my passport and hooked me up with an official CHET team vest and hat. They also presented me with a fantastic framed piece the team members signed.

We had planned to fly back to Rady Children’s in the helicopter, but due to the challenging weather, I had to take a rain check (literally). So, it was back in the ambulance for a return trip to main campus. Despite the conditions, it was a memorable visit with a team that demonstrates daily, and at all hours, their enduring commitment to Rady Children’s mission.

Sporting my CHET team swag and gift with Shelby and Tim