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Teamwork at Keesler AFB saved newborn as Hurricane Zeta approached

Image of a couple, wearing masks, holding a baby Navy Construction Mechanic Jaylen Idol and his wife Destiny hold baby Colter, who was born as Hurricane Zeta approached Keesler Medical Center at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi. (Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Holly Cook)

As Hurricane Zeta drew nearer to Biloxi, Mississippi at the end of October, a team of military and civilian physicians, nurses, technicians, and emergency medical services responded to a difficult labor and delivery at Keesler Medical Center aboard Keesler Air Force Base.

After Destiny Idol, wife of Navy Construction Mechanic Jaylen Idol, had spent 26 hours of labor with Colter Idol, her first child, it became apparent that an emergency cesarian section would be necessary.

“Once I started trying to push to give birth to the baby Wednesday night, the doctors realized that with the way Colter was positioned, I wouldn’t be able to give birth to him naturally,” Destiny Idol told the 81st Training Wing Public Affairs staff.

A Code Blue was called when Colter was born without a heartbeat. Medical personnel from two shifts and multiple departments responded to the code. Air Force Capt. (Dr.) Michael Turner, the attending pediatrician, performed life-saving maneuvers and resuscitated the baby in just 11 minutes.

“He started swallowing fluid and then his heart stopped,” Destiny Idol said. “I knew he was in the right hands though, and I knew the doctors would get him the care he needed.”

Emergency department (ED) nurse Charla Nelson initiated the process to have the baby transported to nearby Gulfport Memorial Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Nelson said that the greatest challenge she faced in the ED was establishing transportation, “because of the risk to everybody’s safety involved outside the hospital.”

She said she knew the people trying to keep the base’s White Avenue gate open for the private ambulance needed to be kept safe because the winds were reaching dangerous speeds.

“I think we did a pretty great job,” Nelson said. She contacted “all the ancillary departments … the NICU nurses, and fire department, and the neonatologist, EMS supervisors … we had great communication – great support – everyone understood the severity of the situation.”

Civilian members of Gulfport’s NICU staff rode with the emergency response team to reach Keesler in the increasingly hazardous weather, arriving two hours after his birth. Road conditions at the time were deemed safe enough for the return trip to the NICU, which under normal conditions could take as little as half an hour.

However, conditions soon deteriorated and made roads impassable. The transport team was forced to shelter at the Biloxi Fire Department for almost another two hours before conditions cleared enough and the team was able to safely complete its journey. Personnel were on standby at the gates to ensure they remained open for the transport team.

Air Force Lt. Col. (Dr.) Brian Neese, deputy director of the 81st Medical Group, explained that the hospital had already activated its emergency protocols for inclement weather by having its ‘rideout crew’ in place at the medical center. Anyone who was scheduled to work the next shift was already at the medical center by 3 o’clock that afternoon to reduce the likelihood of personnel being unable to report because of hazardous road conditions.

“What made the situation a success was in large part to making sure training is up to date,” Turner said. “In a code situation, panic never solves anything … [In this situation], nobody got to a state of panic, they relied on their training and kept going … that really made the difference. We do the training not just because of a ‘what if,’ but because it will happen. That was really reinforced in this situation.”

Having a well-trained team wasn’t the only thing that helped save Colter Idol. Nelson, who has worked in the region’s medical industry for over two decades, relied on her experience and relationships to bypass typical protocols to arrange emergency transport.

“I knew time was of the essence,” Nelson said. Normally, arranging transport involves many steps that take time, including the use of a transfer coordinator.

Neese said that this type of experience and contact information can be shared with colleagues and counterparts to be used in the next emergency.

“[This was a] true testament to team power,” Turner said. “Even though there was a literal hurricane blowing outside – everyone was working together to get baby safely transferred.”

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