Michelle Sarli, RN, has worked on the St. Louis Children’s Hospital transport team since 2010. The dedicated team travels across the country transporting patients to the hospital by helicopter, small airplane or ambulance. While taking care of their patients is their first priority, they also take care of one another. The following is how Sarli worked with her co-workers to support their colleague, Scott Lyerla, RN, and his family when he was deployed to Iraq from January to November 2011. Lyerla is a First Lieutenant-Nurse Core Officer in his 17th year in the Illinois National Guard. In honor of their support, St. Louis Children’s Hospital and the transport team received recognition as a Patriotic Employer from the Office of the Secretary of Defense/Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve.

Scott had not been on our team very long when he learned that he would be deployed to Iraq for almost a year. We were all sad to see him go and to know that he would be away from his family for so long. We were worried about his wife, Colleen, and their daughter, Mairead, so we came up with a way to support all of them.

We have a group on the transport team called the Sunshine Committee that recognizes one another. We decided to adopt Scott and his family and proposed the idea to the team. We knew the only way it would work is if everyone helped in some way. Team members donated money for care packages for Scott and for his family at home. We raised more than $500 from the transport team and Scott’s former co-workers from the emergency department, where he worked before joining the transport team.

Before Scott left, we had a lunch for him and his family, and that’s when we gave them their first package and told them we planned to be there for them while Scott was gone. We made monthly care packages to send to Scott and for the girls at home. We also had team members who lived close to Scott’s home check in on his family.

The monthly packages for Scott’s family had themes like gardening in the spring or with tickets for fun things to do. My favorite was a package we did for the girls when they went to visit Scott in Italy and we put together items to keep them busy on the plane.

We sent Scott packages with things he liked, such as healthy food, drawings from team members’ kids and even birthday cards made from a local elementary school class whose teacher is the sister of one of our transport team members. Scott was worried he’d fall behind in his work at Children’s since he left right after his transport team orientation, so we also sent him books from our library.

I don’t think I realized the full magnitude of what everyone’s support meant to Scott and his family until he came home. The first time I saw him he gave me a great big hug.

The most important thing for me was that all of our team members kept giving. Every time I asked for something, whether it was money or items for the care packages, they kept donating. It was awesome. We really came together and took care of each other.