PORTLAND – Angel 1 may not seem like an appropriate nickname for the big red-and-white truck-like vehicle that Maine Medical Center officials put on display Tuesday morning.

But while it doesn’t look angelic, the work it does — or at least allows doctors and nurses to do — surely is.

The Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at Maine Medical Center unveiled its new ambulance for newborns, infants and children, a vehicle that doctors and nurses said is a rolling intensive care unit for young patients.

Just don’t expect Angel 1, which is at least twice the size of a typical ambulance, to roll up the next time a child falls off a bicycle. The unit, which cost about $300,000 and another $100,000 to equip, is designed primarily to take seriously ill children from other hospitals in Maine to the children’s hospital in Portland, and occasionally from Maine Medical Center to hospitals in Boston for even more specialized care.

The former primary ambulance for those trips will go into semi-retirement, but will be used when Angel 1 is on another run or unavailable because of maintenance.

The new ambulance has space to handle two incubators at a time, and its interior sides are lined with padded seats equipped with heavy-duty seat belts for the medical crew. Those doctors and nurses can offer full respiratory care, and can use the Internet to exchange information with the hospital.

The ambulance was paid for entirely with donations, said Sue Dolinar, the children’s hospital’s vice president for philanthropy. Walmart, she said, was particularly supportive, with $170,000 raised at Maine stores and another $50,000 donated by the company after workers designated the children’s hospital their charity of choice.

Dolinar said the ambulance is usually ready to roll within 30 minutes of a call. A team of about a half-dozen doctors, nurses and other care providers assembles, gathers the necessary medicine and boards Angel 1 when it rolls up to the hospital.

The idea is to get a struggling newborn or ill child stabilized while being taken to Maine Med. Information relayed on the trip ensures that everyone at the hospital is ready.

Monique Crawford of Lewiston, who was at Tuesday’s ceremony marking the debut of Angel 1, said she’s grateful that ambulances like it are available.

She gave birth last fall to a boy at St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Lewiston. Although the baby was premature, she said, he was only a few weeks early and none of the doctors or nurses seemed concerned.

But just after he was delivered by a Caesarean section, Crawford said she knew that something was wrong.

“I kept waiting for the cry and there was no cry,” she said. Doctors soon determined he had a respiratory infection.

The predecessor to Angel 1 arrived a few hours later, Crawford said, and Andrew Tryteck was whisked off to Maine Med, with doctors and nurses beginning to treat him en route.

Andrew spent the next six weeks in the hospital, but is now a healthy 8-month-old, Crawford said.

Without the ambulance, she said, “my daughter might not have a little brother, I wouldn’t have my son and my husband wouldn’t have his son.”

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

[email protected]

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