This means that some infants cannot arrive at an emergency facility by a county ambulance. So if the weather is bad, ShandsCair’s neonatal/pediatric team drives their own ambulances and picks up the babies themselves.
“Our team is unique because we’re pretty much the only people that can transport that small baby,” Irwin said. “There are very few neonatal/pediatric teams across the state of Florida.”
To be able to care for more than one baby at a time, ShandsCair has two neonatal/pediatric teams on duty each day. If one team is on a longer flight, a second team remains ready to respond to a new call. And in some cases, Whidden and Irwin transport pregnant mothers and older children to the ICU as well.
Working 10- to-12 hour shifts and often taking night calls, Whidden and Irwin say what keeps them going is “the joy that comes with working with kids,” who become happy and playful when they begin to feel a little better than they did before.
“For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had a passion for kids,” said Whidden, who worked at a UF Health neonatal intensive care unit for eight years before joining ShandsCair. “The most rewarding part of my job is seeing the babies we pick up who were very, very tiny and very, very sick be able to go home with their parents.”