Thousands of little pirates swarm the streets in search of treasure. All of a sudden, blaring lights and loud horns stop the tiny pirates and their families in their tracks.
“Wow! How cool is that?” one parent shouts. “Look it’s an ambulance!” exclaims a child.
Normally you wouldn’t want to see a pediatric ambulance in your neighborhood, but today is different, as the Johns Hopkins All Children’s LifeLine ambulance rolls down Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa for the annual Children’s Gasparilla parade. The 70-plus-year tradition is inspired by a pirate invasion of the city centuries ago, and today is celebrated by an estimated 100,000 families each year.
Johns Hopkins All Children’s employees beam with pride, walking alongside the bright blue truck and handing out bandage holders.
“My wife and I and our children walking in the parade today have truly become engulfed in the area, and we are now fully vested Tampanians,” says Keith Thatch, M.D., a pediatric surgeon with Johns Hopkins Children’s who also treats patients at regional affiliates such as AdventHealth Tampa and Brandon Regional. “As a physician at the hospital and parent, the parade was a great opportunity to represent John Hopkins All Children’s and give back to the Tampa Bay community. Seeing patients that we have treated over the years visit with us at the parade and sharing their experience with us was priceless."
Families even stop staff to thank them for saving their child. One mom can’t hold back excitement to let her son see the inside of the LifeLine Critical Care Transport Team truck. Huntley, now 7, had been transported by LifeLine not once, but twice. Due to complications at birth he was airlifted by LifeLine to Johns Hopkins All Children’s where doctors put him on a heart-lung bypass machine called extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). Just three months after being discharged from the neonatal intensive care unit, the hospital’s ambulance brought him back.
“We didn’t know if he was going to make it. We almost lost him,” says Huntley’s mom, Amy. “But to see him today, healthy, in this ambulance is just a miracle.”