In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

February 14, 2019

No Ambulance, No Problem: Polar Vortex No Match for Teleneonatology Program

By In the Loop

Nevaeh Loth was ready to enter the world seven weeks before she was due, and on a winter day when travel was nearly impossible. But with technology, a neonatologist 40 miles away could remotely assist with the birth.

Newborn Nevaeh Loth's timing perhaps couldn't have been worse. But seven weeks from her due date, she was ready to enter the outside world. There was just one problem. The world outside of her parents' Blooming Prairie, Minnesota, home on that January day was wrapped in a polar vortex so cold that medical transport units — ground and air — were advised to stay put.

Nevaeh's mother, Dayoni Hash, didn't have that luxury when her water broke. Left with no other choice, as the Austin Daily Herald reports, Dayoni and her boyfriend, Roger Loth, got into their car and prayed they'd make it to Mayo Clinic Health System in Austin safely and in time. "The vehicle almost didn't start," Dayoni tells the paper. "There wouldn't have been ambulances that could've come to get us because of the weather. It would've been way worse."

Dayoni and Roger would make it to Austin. There they found a dedicated team of care providers who'd braved the elements to help provide an emergency cesarean delivery with a little help from their friends at Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus. "I heard the doctor, but I personally didn't see him," Dayoni says. "I heard him the whole time, and they got the baby out. I thought he was in the room, and when the nurses said they were all going to the nursery, I was expecting him to be here in person. When I saw him roll past the screen, I was like 'oh, OK.' I didn't even know technology like that existed."

Oh, but it does. And it's for situations like this that Mayo Clinic began offering its teleneonatology program to all Mayo Clinic Health System birth centers in the Midwest back in 2013. The idea is to provide direct, remote consultation and assistance in the births of premature or critically ill infants "via a private and secure audio-video connection" with neonatologists in Rochester. "The ideal situation would be if there's enough time, the mom would be transported to Rochester Methodist Hospital," Robert Johnson, M.D., the Mayo Clinic Children's Center critical care neonatologist who remotely assisted with Nevaeh's birth, tells the paper. "That's not always possible. Sometimes, a hospital like Austin's has to do the initial care for a baby until our transport team can come."

In Nevaeh's case, that transport team wasn't able to safely come to Austin until the next morning. They were able to drive safely and take their time, the paper reports, thanks to the three hours that Dr. Johnson was able to virtually spend with Dayoni and her care team in Austin before and after Nevaeh's birth. And that, Dr. Johnson says, reinforces the teleneonatology program's value to patient care. "Given our challenges of weather and geography, telemedicine has been a tremendous help," he tells the paper. "We're really thrilled on how things worked out with this and with all the help from the Austin staff. They have a lot to be proud of."

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Tags: cesarean delivery, Dr. Robert Johnson, Mayo Clinic Children's Center, Mayo Clinic Health System in Austin, Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Patient Stories, Teleneonatology program

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