REACH Stories

Donnie Letts

Bouncing Back

Donnie Letts

The REACH crew members were literally lifesavers. If everyone in the world took things to heart the way they do…” Shane Letts pauses, then says, “In my experience, this is a company where from the top on down, it’s about serving the community you’re connected to.” In December, Shane and his wife Mary—and most of all, their infant son, Donnie—found out first-hand what it was like to be in need of their services.

Croup, fairly common among young children, is an infection of the upper airway. Although the accompanying inflammation causes a horrible-sounding cough and wheezing breath, it usually isn’t serious enough to require hospitalization. When 13-month old Donnie was seen by doctors at John Muir Medical Center’s emergency department and sent home, his parents hoped all would be well. Instead, Donnie’s symptoms escalated. He was admitted back to the hospital the following day—and was still there a week later.

Mary says, “He would get better, then he would crash. Early one morning, he really went downhill. Our pediatrician and the attending doctor wanted to move him to Children’s Hospital in Oakland. I called my husband and woke him up out of a sound sleep to let him know we were leaving by helicopter.”

Donnie and father Shane enjoying a moment of play together. Donnie and father Shane enjoying a moment of play together.
They give you a sense of calm that’s infectious. It allowed us to ‘turn a corner’ as a family.
Shane Letts, Donnie's Father

REACH pilot Jason Dykstra soon arrived, with flight nurses Julie Barlow and Brian Warner on board. “Julie and Brian came in with all their equipment, introduced themselves and started asking a gazillion questions,” Mary says. “Brian kind of took over. He said, ‘I’m going to work with Donnie, and you just stand still. You don’t have to do anything. I will work around you.’ I was able to hold Donnie the entire time.”

“You immediately knew these were people you could trust,” Mary states. “They were in control and very reassuring. It’s got to be very difficult to remain calm in situations like that, especially with parents.”

Mary was hoping to fly with her son, but there wasn’t room on board the aircraft. “Brian asked for Donnie’s favorite blankets. We put one behind him and one across him, and Brian said, ‘I promise you, he will be at the other end when you get there.’”

Upon arrival at Children’s Hospital in Oakland, they found Donnie safe and sound. “And Brian and Julie were still with him,” Mary adds. “Brian told me Donnie fell asleep on the helicopter.”

REACH pilot, Jason Dykstra, preparing for a flight. REACH pilot, Jason Dykstra, preparing for a flight.

Mary loved the care Donnie received at Children’s. “They usually give patients a team of three,” she explains. “They gave Donnie five. When he woke up the next morning, he was bouncing off the walls, he was doing great. There are a million good things to say about that hospital. I can’t thank them enough for their help and support.”

Shane agrees, adding, “I just want to say again how amazing the entire REACH crew was, how overwhelmingly professional. They give you a sense of calm that’s infectious. It allowed us to ‘turn a corner’ as a family. Thank God we have people who are willing to do what they do.”

And how’s Donnie doing? “The little stinker is just fine,” Mom reports.

Mary and Shane Letts are happy to have son Donnie back home again. Mary and Shane Letts are happy to have son Donnie back home again.
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