Airlift Northwest helps bring miracle baby into the world

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Airlift Northwest helps bring miracle baby into the world

Swift transfer from Yakima gave Zoe and her mother Sandra the care they needed in a matter of minutes, versus hours
Barbara Clements

Sandra Gonzalez felt that this time, this baby would go to full term. After six miscarriages, all between 18 and 23 weeks, the 31-year-old mother felt she’d reached a key milestone once she’d made it past week 24.  She had already named her daughter Zoe.

Two weeks later however, on Feb. 4, Gonzalez had just bought groceries when her water broke. Her fiancé, Ivan Gutierez, rushed Gonzalez to Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital, where the on-duty obstetrician decided that Gonzalez needed to be transferred to UW Medical Center immediately. A three-hour drive from Yakima to Seattle was out of the question, so the doctor called Airlift Northwest and put her on the 30-minute flight.

Brenda Nelson, chief flight nurse for Airlift Northwest, said that while Gonzalez’s flight during the afternoon was within Airlift's regular schedule, it will start offering 24/7 coverage in the Yakima area on May 4.  This is good news for women with serious complications of pregnancy and anyone who might require quick emergency transport for a critical illness or injury. 

“By going 24/7 we can quickly move patients to the next level of care,” Nelson said.

“I don’t like planes, or flying,” laughed Gonzalez, as she remembered that day recently while she played with her daughter, now over 2 months old,  in UW Medical Center’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. But her daughter’s life was at stake, so fly she did.

Gonzalez remembered the flight nurses as supportive and helpful. They gave her ear buds to cut the noise of the plane and escorted her into the hospital until she was settled. She was whisked to the labor and delivery unit, where she gave birth to 2-pound, 1-ounce Zoe, who has more than tripled her weight since her birth.

 “She’s our miracle from God … we are very thankful,” said Gutierez, who works with Gonzalez at Olive Garden. The couple split their time travelling between Seattle and Yakima to tend to their jobs, take care of Gonzalez’s 10-year-old daughter, Dulce, and spend time monitoring Zoe's progress in the NICU.  Both parents proudly watched last week as nurse Jaime Loughlin checked their daughter’s vitals and the amount of food she’d consumed that day, and generally snuggled with her.

Loughlin said that Zoe already has her own personality, and loves listening to Pandora before she dozes off. As Gonzalez watched Loughlin giving her daughter a checkup, she shook her head: “She’s been getting amazing care here.”

Even after Gonzalez takes Zoe home, which may be as soon as May 5, the couple plans to return. Zoe will participate in a UWMC research study which monitors preemies for seven years, while providing them with medical checkups. 

Gonzalez and Gutierez hope to take their daughter home by Mother’s Day, in a more leisurely way this time: by car.

See related story: Airlift Northwest announces 24/7 service at its Yakima base  
News Media Contact: Susan Gregg,, 206.616.6730