As the sun begins to rise, a group of local medical professionals prepare to take flight. This trio from Omaha Children's Hospital is just one of many teams who participate in the pediatric cardiology outreach program.
“It's a group effort to just try to do the right thing for the patient,” said Dr. Scott Fletcher.
The medical teams either fly or drive to towns throughout Nebraska, South Dakota and Iowa that don’t offer local pediatric cardiac care.
“We did 45,600 miles last year,” said Dr. Fletcher.
That’s almost two trips around the world.
Sometimes outreach patients are seeing pediatric cardiologist Dr. Fletcher for the first time. Other patients have been coming to the doctor since birth.
No matter if the patients have been to outreach or not, they all agree on the same thing.
“It's wonderful to have a pediatric cardiology program here so close to home,” said Mandy Kumm of Wausa, Nebraska.
Instead of making the almost three hour trip to Omaha from Wausa, Nebraska, the outreach program allows the Kumm family and others like them to stay much closer to home.
“It’s a shorter drive and they have everything we need here. They bring in their own eco, nurse and doctor. I’d be all the same that we see in Omaha, but they fly here,” said Bridget Thoene.
“The more we can do to serve them and to relieve some of that anxiety just by making it easier for them and letting them do this little closer to their home turf, is better,” said Dr. Fletcher.
Dr. Fletcher has been doing these outreach trips for more than 20 years.
“I think it is reassuring for them to see the same doctor,” said Dr. Fletcher.
But, these outreach visits wouldn't be such a success without the entire team.
Nurse Cindy Foster has worked side by side with Dr. Fletcher for 22 years.
“I’ve watched them grow up and it's great fun,” said Foster.
Cardiac sonographer Katie Shelton is the team’s ecotech. Shelton brings along her echocardiogram which allows her to do an ultrasound of the heart, something patients used to have to travel to Omaha for.
And of course, the team can't make the trip without their pilot.
Sometimes it takes long days and hundreds of miles to give the region the best pediatric cardiac care, but for this team it's all worth it.
“Everything we've done has been what's best for the patient,” said Dr. Fletcher.