“Flying Nun” Visits Children’s Hospital

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Shannon Perry, a nurse and former sister at the Children’s Hospital of Illinois, made history nearly 50 years ago.

“I sat on one side and the pilot sat on the other and the baby was in between us.” Perry said.

Perry was aboard the first helicopter to fly a baby to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit back in 1967.

Wednesday the “original flying nun”, as she calls herself, came back to visit the NICU.

Perry says they used to call the unit the “Premature Nursery” and were only able to provide basic cares to babies. Since that time infant mortality rates have decreased dramatically.

Perry says she’s excited to see how far things have come from the private rooms for babies and families, to ventilator machines, and the technology on board the helicopter, of course.

But, she says she’ll never forget the day she took flight with that very first baby on a helicopter loaned from the Journal Star since the hospital didn’t have their own at the time.

“We talked to the parents and we talked to the nurses, took the baby, put him in the incubator and took him back out to the helicopter and took him back home and within 8 hours of the time he was born he was in the nursery here.” Perry said.

Perry is now a professor of nursing at San Francisco State University.

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