Texas Baby Sick With COVID Had To Be Airlifted 150 Miles To Available Hospital Bed

An 11-month-old baby girl suffering from COVID-19 had to be airlifted from Houston to an available hospital bed 150 miles away, amid a crushing shortage of resources as delta-variant coronavirus cases skyrocket in Texas.

“She needed to be intubated immediately because she was having seizures,” Patricia Darnauer, the administrator for Houston’s Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital, told ABC-6 TV. “We looked at all five major pediatric hospital groups” in Houston and “none” had appropriate beds available, she said.

Harris Health System, which includes LBJ Hospital, shared videos and photos of the baby being wheeled to an air ambulance. She’s receiving treatment at Baylor Scott & White McLane Children’s Medical Center in Temple.

Harris president and CEO Esmaeil Porsa said Wednesday that the system was already “in crisis mode” with a critical shortage of staff and beds amid a surge in COVID-19 cases.

More than 50% of intensive care unit patients at LBJ Hospital have COVID, which is a “huge burden,” Porsa told KHOU-11. The wait time for treatment in the hospital emergency rooms was 24 hours.

Houston pediatrician Christina Propst said the situation with the airlifted baby underscores the dire situation facing young people amid the soaring delta cases, ABC-13 reported.

“The emergency rooms at the major children’s hospitals here in Houston, the largest medical center in the world, are extremely crowded,” Propst said. “They are filling, if not [already] full — as are the hospitals and intensive care units.”

The delta variant of COVID is affecting more children and doing so more seriously, she warned.

The respiratory syncytial virus, which affects children, is also increasing in the area, and this time of year tends to bring more pediatric physical injuries like broken bones from outdoor activities. 

“We have many patients, many patients, every day,” Darnauer said. “We are back beyond our pre-pandemic volumes at LBJ.”

Propst advised everyone who can get vaccinated to do so, and said children should wear masks. More than 90% of people being admitted to Texas hospitals with COVID are unvaccinated. Since children under 12 cannot yet be vaccinated, masks are their best protection.

“If children are not masking in schools, it will be a major problem,” Propst warned.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), meanwhile, has signed an executive order banning mask and vaccine mandates in the state.

“Going forward, in Texas, there will not be any government-imposed shutdowns or mask mandates,” Abbott said Wednesday. “Everyone already knows what to do.”

The Texas Department of State Health Services reported more than 13,500 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, with 8,130 reported hospitalizations — the highest number of hospitalizations since mid-February. The seven-day rolling average for hospitalizations was up roughly 50% statewide, officials reported Wednesday.

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