Nichole Kirnbauer has had a difficult life. From birth she had the illness known as cystic fibrosis. Cystic fibrosis itself is a hard illness to live with. It causes lung damage and chronic respiratory infections. Nichole also had cerebral palsy which resulted in decreased movement in her arms and legs. About two years ago Nichole suffered a cardiac arrest. Her mom did CPR on her and restored her heart rate. Unfortunately Nichole suffered from irreversible brain damage and was unable to be weaned off of a ventilator. She received a tracheotomy and was admitted to a long term care facility for ventilator patients in Long Island, near her parent’s home. In December, Nichole developed complications in her trach which caused her to be admitted to the University Hospital at Stony Brook.
All of these challenges were met by her loving parents Sharon and Eric Kirnbauer. With their strong faith and commitment to each other, along with there undying love for Nichole, they persevered. They were able to give Nichole the love she needed. Nichole’s dad got the news that he would be transferred to Indianapolis for his job. Nichole’s parents were faced with the heart breaking choice of leaving her behind. They could not independently pay for a flight costing over $20,000.00.
Enter Grace on Wings. Nichole’s fathers company graciously agreed and made the donation for the costs of our flight. Grace on Wings could transfer Nichole safely on her ventilator. She would be transferred directly from the hospital to the Children’s Specialty Unit in Shelbyville.
Our pilots Hal Blank, and Mike Meister would fly Nellie. Jeremiah Ridden RN, and myself would be the medical staff. We flew out to Long Island on the 6th of January ahead of a snow storm. We arrived in Long Island and were taken by an “ambulette” to the Stony Brook Hospital Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. A medical ICU ambulance team met us there. Nichole appeared to be frightened by the teams arrival, but she seemed to take comfort in the fact that her mom was there. We put Nichole onto our cot and connected her to the ambulance service ventilator. A short ride to the airport and we placed Nichole in Nellie and connected her to our ventilator. Jeremiah gave Nichole a small dose of Ativan to help her relax. Sharon, Nichole’s mom was buckled in and we were ready to fly. Nichole seemed to relax once we were in the air, and even rewarded us with a smile. She seemed more inquisitive than frightened at that point. After all this was probably her first flight. The return to Indianapolis was smooth and uneventful.
When we arrived we were immediately met by a KATS ambulance team from Lafayette. We took Nichole to her new home in Shelbyville. The staff at the Children’s Specialty Unit was waiting for us when we arrived. Nichole’s father was also there. You could tell that Nichole was happy and comforted to see him and hear his voice. We tucked Nichole into her bed, said goodbye and went on or way.
Our whole team felt blessed to be able to serve Nichole and her family. The love her parents felt for Nichole was evident the entire time we were together. Our prayers are with this wonderful family.