Avera Medical Minute: Avera careflight helps keep smallest patients safe

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Nearly every day babies across the U.S. are born premature or with complications. Many of them need special care to help them survive.

“I didn’t want to leave her side or I didn’t want her to leave my side,” Lyric’s mom Jessica Howerton said.

Baby Lyric is only 2 months old, but she's had quite a journey so far.

“When she was delivered, she came out with the cord wrapped around her neck and evidently she had a short cord as well,” Howerton said. “So she didn’t cry as soon as she should have. It took her a little bit longer to start crying and breathing,”

Everything seemed fine with Lyric until about an hour later.

That’s when doctors told Jessica, Lyric had stopped breathing.

“My doctor is very good at being calm,” Howerton said. “He's very good at his job. Seeing it was definitely a lot different than the way my doctor described it for sure. So it was really scary.”

So on the coldest day of the year, with high temperatures only reaching negative six degrees, little Lyric was careflighted from Spencer to Sioux Falls Avera McKennan hospital.

“Giving them the reassurance that hey, trust us,” Avera McKennan Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Amanda Kotten said. “Your baby is in our hands and we're going to do exactly what we do best.”

Because of those temperatures reaching negative 25 degrees, the NICU flight team had to convince the flight director that it was safe to transport Lyric.

Without a heated isolette though, that flight might not have been possible.

“We’re going to crank up our isolette as high as it can go just so that we can do everything that we can to keep them out of the elements really,” Avera McKennan neonatal nurse Erin Stofferahn said.

“You know when I got to work I kind of told myself, I was like, it would be my luck to get called out on transport on the coldest day of the year with the polar vortex,” Cotten said. “I was almost excited for the challenge to know that we could do it and that we had the equipment possible to do it.”

Working on the NICU Avera careflight team, takes a lot of communication.

Nurses said without it, their transport might not be successful.

“That’s our main goal is to keep them healthy,” Stofferahn said. “Which is why we're there in the first place because those smaller town facilities don’t have the means that we do to, for that extra care that NICU patients need.”

Today, Lyric is at home happy and healthy-- something her parents are grateful for every day.

“I do appreciate the flight team and then everybody at Avera taking care of us the whole 8 days we were there,” Lyrics dad, Brian Emery said.

“As long as everyone can get home safe, that’s the main goal,” Stofferahn said.