ST. GEORGE, Utah — On a sunny morning in St. George, a private jet took off carrying “precious cargo,” two premature babies whose parents in Florida struggled for weeks to determine how they could bring their children home safely.
“It’s not just a plane ride. It helps us start our family because there was really no good option B,” said father John Waterman.
After a surrogate mother from southwestern Utah gave birth to the babies at 30 weeks in May, twins Sydney and David stayed at the NICU at Dixie Regional Medical Center for nearly two months.
Waterman and his wife, Alison Herman, learned a private flight would be the only feasible option home. A commercial flight would put the twins in danger amid the COVID-19 pandemic, who were both discharged home on oxygen, and driving home would take more than 35 hours, they said.
When Tampa-based Jet ICU, operating the largest air ambulance fleet in North America, heard the couple was asking for the public’s help, the company offered to fly them home for free. It’s a trip that would normally cost $40,000.
“Empathy is a huge thing in medicine,” Jet ICU’s chief flight medic Jared Wayt said. “We are all passionate about caring for people, especially those who are far from home and members of our local community.”
The flight crew arrived from Tampa to St. George to board a jet with the twins and their father early Thursday morning. John sat next to Sydney, David, and an NICU nurse in the back of the aircraft, expressing his excitement and gratitude.
“Our kids had to be dramatic, they couldn’t just be regular, normal kids,” Waterman joked. “Today was actually supposed to be their delivery day, so in a way, it’s kind of poetic. I’m going to deliver them home.”
After a four-hour flight, the crew safely arrived at Tampa International Airport where mother Alison reunited with her family of four.
“Words can’t say enough for how grateful we are,” Herman said.
“In a time of craziness and a pandemic when everyone is at each other’s throats, it’s just really encouraging to know that somebody’s willing to do this for someone they’ve never met,” Waterman added.