Air emergency teams busy treating COVID-19 patients | KOB 4
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Air emergency teams busy treating COVID-19 patients

Patrick Hayes
Updated: July 03, 2020 10:20 PM
Created: July 03, 2020 07:18 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- UNM Hospital's Lifeguard Air Emergency Team has always been busy but now they're taking extra steps to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Since March, a specialized team of health care workers have been transporting patients with the coronavirus from rural parts of New Mexico to UNMH for treatment.

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Lifeguard Director Maggie O'Donnell says UNM has two teams that transport critically ill patients. 

"And we do everything from what we call basic life support to critical specialty care," she said. "That's patients on ECMO, which is heart, lung bypass."

Since the outbreak started, crew members have been putting on extra layers of personal protective equipment.

"Over our flight suits, when we transport a COVID or suspected COVID patients, we wear isolation gowns," said Flight Nurse Verena Weissenborn. "We're typically double-gloved for the length of the transport, head covers over all of our gear."

Even though the volume of transports has stayed the same, officials said they've seen an increase in trips from places like Gallup, Farmington and Indian Health Service facilities in Arizona.

Both flight nurses say they are glad they can help during a crisis.

"Definitely a group effort," said Flight Nurse Colette Van Houten. "Between everyone at the state, it feels like, just keeping up on the medicine of it because it's new, and we have never seen patients like this before."


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