An expected healthy birth can turn into an unexpected emergency; it's a reality hundreds of parents face each year in Oklahoma.
But through Air Kids One at OU Children's Hospital in Oklahoma City, care is just a flight away for the smallest most fragile patients.
Seth and Ariel Ross barely got to hold their newborn daughter, Jane, before she was rushed to another room.
Seth: “I can’t think of a better word for it than terrifying.”
Ariel: “She just couldn’t breathe when she was born.”
Seth: “Nobody was talking to us…I got to hold her for maybe 20 seconds.”
Ariel: “We’re still not sure how long it was that she wasn’t breathing; it was anywhere from three minutes to 20 minutes.”
Her doctors in Stillwater got her breathing, but, worried about brain damage, they called for help an hour away from Air Kids One in Oklahoma City.
“When we get a call, we have a little bit of information about what the baby is going to be, but we really never know until we get there and we start assessing,” said Registered Nurse Jamie Lewis.
Once the neonatal flight team lands, the first five minutes are crucial.
“We work on stabilizing and doing everything that baby needs to do,” Lewis said.
The nurses stabilized Jane and started a cooling process to slow down her bodily functions so her brain could recover.
“She was already in this big incubator looking thing that they were going to transport her in, so I got to see her in there for a couple of minutes,” Ariel Ross said.
The chopper flew her back to OU children's hospital in Oklahoma City.
“Our flight back is just about maintaining what we’ve already done – monitoring the baby,” Lewis said.
Jane spent 10 days in the NICU. A picture was all her mother had until they were reunited.
“Even though there were a lot of negative emotions that were all kind of happening simultaneously, there was this kind of nagging sense that you were spared something worse,” Seth Ross said.
Kendra Riel is one of 13 nurses assigned to Air Kids One.
“For me, I want to make this horrible experience for this little baby the best that I possibly can,” Riel said.
Air Kids One is the only medical helicopter in Oklahoma dedicated to transporting infants and children.
“Whenever your interventions are working, it is the best feeling in the world, especially to tell these parents ‘it’s working, the baby needed this and this is helping,’” Riel said.
Jane's treatment worked and now at 5-months-old, she's thriving.
Ariel: “You would just never know. She’s perfect.”
Seth: “As miserable as it all was at the time, now it is just a memory.”
Since 2015, Air Kids One has carried more than 600 children.