NICU mobile unit: Healing our smallest superheroes

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. --  Preparing to have a baby can be exciting for many parents, but sometimes the baby is born far sooner than expected. There's a new Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) on wheels that's providing care for the smallest of patients during their most vulnerable stage.

However, getting the smallest of superheroes to their destination can be a challenge, so the NICU staff uses their mobile unit like Superman uses his cape, providing extra-special care to patients on their trip.

On Friday, FOX 17's Erica Francis hit the road and checked out what Mercy Health's new mobile unit has to offer.

"Our patients are our little superheroes," said Jette Benson, the NICU transport coordinator at Mercy Health.


"This is a transport isolate, it’s an entire system for transporting our smallest babies," she continued.

Mercy Health's St. Mary's campus can provide the highest level of care to NICU patients designated in Michigan. That means they can provide care for babies younger than 32 weeks gestation or those who are in need of prolonged respiratory support.

It's care not all West Michigan hospitals specialize in.

Saint Mary's sister hospital in Muskegon, Mercy Health's Hackley Campus, is unable to provide such delicate care, that's where the NICU transport unit comes into play.

We talked to Steve Gelfand, a neonatologist, who said his mission is to provide increased care.

"Our presence there [Hackley Campus] is going to help them further increase the care they’re going to provide to those babies, said Gelfand.

The unit is equipped with ventilators, IV's, humidified oxygen, a mattress that can adjust to temperature, as well as one-on-one care with staff members.

"We strap them in with little seat belts, we’re able to put their little leads on and monitor them throughout the entire transport," said Benson.

Saint Mary's has already transported three babies from Muskegon to Grand Rapids since early January. They're predicting they will transport around two babies a week and roughly 60 babies a year.

We're told the NICU ambulance helps patients stay within Mercy Health's hospital system, allowing newborns seamless care.

"Before we created the system, we did not have a transport team here at Saint Mary’s, this is the beginning of our transport services completely," said Benson.

More than three dozen NICU clinicians, respiratory therapists and nurses were all trained to work in the new superhero ambulance.

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