The call came in to a communications war room to help rescue a Colorado teen who had been severely burned more than 13,000 miles away in Cambodia.
A team of specially trained critical care nurses staffs the center 24/7 at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora. The service is known as DocLine and medical providers anywhere can call for help.
Abbey Alexander, 18, is from Firestone, Colorado, but had been living and teaching kindergarten at an international school in Cambodia.
Her fiancé, parents and brother also had been living and working in the city of Siem Reap. Alexander and a fellow teacher happened to be riding past an unlicensed gas station on a scooter when a propane tank blew up, knocked them off the scooter and severely burned both young women.
Alexander suffered burns over 35% of her body and doctors in Cambodia knew they couldn’t adequately care for her. So they stabilized her and sought help. U.S. Embassy workers in Cambodia found an air ambulance company that was looking for a burn center capable of treating Alexander’s injuries. That’s when the call came in to the UCHealth DocLine and the Colorado team jumped into action. They made dozens of calls to oversee arrangements and bring Alexander to the UCHealth Burn and Frostbite Center on the Anschutz Medical Campus, one of just 54 elite burn centers in the U.S., certified by the American Burn Association.
Fielding calls from 48 states and 19 countries
While the call to help Alexander came from especially far away, UCHealth DocLine nurses are used to far-flung requests for help.
DocLine workers have fielded calls from medical providers in 48 states and 19 countries. About 900 incoming and outgoing calls flow through the center each day, adding up to more 300,000 a year. The nurses work with on-call specialists who provide real-time advice on how best to help patients get the care they need as fast as possible at all hospitals within the UCHealth system.
Inside the UCHealth DocLine center, nurses work in a dark room with colorful screens lighting up the walls. The screens show a 30,000-foot view and up-to-the-minute updates on where space is available at UCHealth hospitals. They also track the locations and availability of emergency vehicles and helicopters.
For medical providers, the center provides one-stop shopping for information and help.
“If you’re a provider at a small hospital and you only have a nurse and a clerk and a patient with a third-degree burn comes in, you don’t have to play phone tag. We’ll send the flight team out to help you,” said Rob Leeret, a former emergency and ICU nurse who oversees DocLine and LifeLine, UCHealth’s emergency helicopter service.
“DocLine is a dispatch and operational command center. It encompasses all the logistics,” Leeret said. “Any provider can call. We’ve got specialists on call 24/7, 365.”
The service provides vital support and connections to communities throughout the Rocky Mountain region and some other remote sites.
The number providers can call is: 844-285-4555.
Real-time data makes the UCHealth DocLine unique
Leeret said the UCHealth DocLine is unique among services around the U.S.
Some health centers have centralized dispatch facilities, but they don’t combine them with an on-call center for medical advice from specialists, TeleStroke services in 20 remote sites and real-time data on capacities and availability throughout an entire hospital system.
“This room is every bit as important as an operating room,” Leeret said of the DocLine headquarters. “These phones have to ring so patients can get exactly the care they need. We have redundancies so our system never goes down.”
On average, callers wait no more than 12 seconds to speak to a nurse.
“We try to think of everything, remove all roadblocks and administrative burdens and help providers transfer patients where they need to go,” Leeret said.
The goal at every step is to intervene during challenging times get patients the best possible help as quickly as possible.
“People get hurt in the mountains and have car accidents. They have strokes and heart attacks far from help,” Leeret said. “We keep an eye on the patient from beginning to end.”
That’s exactly what critical care nurse, Tamara Alferos, did for Alexander. She fielded countless calls, put a burn specialist on the phone with doctors in Cambodia, helped transfer Alexander’s records, ensured that space was available in the Colorado burn unit and kept in close contact with the medical flight crew as Alexander’s flight made its way back to the U.S.
“We had this patient out there and we needed to get her home,” Leeret said.
Finally, 9 days after Alexander’s accident, she was on her way home in a small medical plane. Her mom rode with her.
“It was like roadtripping in the back of someone’s minivan,” said Erin Alexander. “There was no bathroom. IVs were hanging off the back of chairs from carabineers. We stopped a little islands to refuel and go to the bathroom.”
The trip required four stops and 28 hours.
Then the plane touched down at Denver International Airport and an ambulance brought Alexander directly to the burn center where her providers already felt like they knew her thanks to Alferos’ help.
Alexander’s doctors expect Alexander to have a full recovery. Her parents recently visited the DocLine war room and got to thank Alferos in person.