COLUMBIA — A new ambulance meant to make children more comfortable during long rides and to accommodate two patients was unveiled Tuesday morning at the MU Women's and Children's Hospital.
The new ambulance was designed by two members of the pediatric transport team, John Wood and Dan McGavock. It features side-loading doors, which makes it possible for the team to transport two patients simultaneously.
McGavock said the idea for side-loading doors grew out of necessity. The older ambulances had the capacity to hold two stretchers, but the rear-loading doors found on most ambulances meant limited room for emergency medical technicians.
"The side doors helped us realize our goal of accommodating two patients and creating more room for patient caregivers to work," McGavock said. "It also creates an element of safety because everything is within reach, meaning caregivers can stay belted in their seat as much as possible."
McGavock said the ambulance took about two years from idea to fruition.
Intended to be child-friendly, the new ambulance is covered in black and gold stripes and emblazoned with a picture of Truman Jr. — the kid version of Truman the Tiger, also known as TJ — on its side. It features a DVD player to help keep young patients occupied during the ride and additional seating so that parents can ride along.
"Our ambulance is a transport ambulance, meaning that we'll get patients from other hospitals and transport them to Women and Children's Hospital," said Matt Splett, media coordinator for MU Health Care. "The ambulance will sometimes travel as far as two or three hours away."
"That's a long time to keep a child occupied in a regular car, let alone an ambulance where they're sick or injured," he said. "By having these additional features, we create a comfortable and relaxing environment for the patient."
The ambulance was made possible through a partnership with 12 mid-Missouri Walmart and Sam's Club stores, including a Wal-Mart Distribution Center in Moberly.
Associates and customers raised $142,000 in 2010. This donation fully funded all costs associated with the new ambulance.
Ed Hohlt, manager of the Grindstone Walmart, told the audience at the ceremony that he was proud of how Wal-Mart associates had risen to the challenge.
"We were able to make this possible and I'm glad we did because it's a very worthwhile cause," Hohlt said.
Wal-Mart annually partners with the Children's Miracle Network to raise money for local children's hospitals.
Laura Gajda, executive director of advancement for Children's Hospital, said she met with Wal-Mart when deciding what the funds should be used for.
"We decided that having a specific piece of equipment in mind would help achieve our goal because customers and associates could better understand what we're working towards," she said.
John Pardalos, a neonatologist at MU Health Care and medical director of the transport service, said that Walmart customers and associates spent almost a year raising the donated funds.
"We are so overwhelmed by the generosity and support we've received in this endeavor," he said. "This is a partnership that is committed to making a difference."