They’ve landed on highways, in the middle of residential neighborhoods and in farm fields. Everywhere they go the team members of Life Net are focused on saving lives.
People who have seen them flying overhead ask them: “Why fly? Why not get the injured person to the trauma center in an ambulance? It takes time to fly the helicopter to the scene and get the patient to the hospital.” Jeremy Hodges, Life Net’s Clinical Base Supervisor at Alegent Creighton University Medical Center, said a medical helicopter gets the injured person help—fast, with an average speed of 135 mph. “What it takes to drive somewhere, this takes us one-third the time,” he said.
It’s commonplace today for seriously injured patients to be transported to trauma centers by helicopter, especially if the injuries occur some distance away. Life Net flies a 150 nautical-mile radius, day and night. Medical helicopters get high grades for saving lives: a new study of more than 223,000 patients by Johns Hopkins University of Medicine found trauma patients transported by helicopter are 16 percent more likely to survive than those brought in by ground ambulance.
Speed is an advantage and so is the extensive experience of the emergency medical team on board. They’re required to have a minimum three to five years working in a high-volume emergency department, intensive care unit or EMS unit. Then they’re required to complete additional classes and certification, with continuing education a constant.
The extra training helps them continue the emergency care that was already started at the scene. First responders usually have a matter of seconds to decide whether to call for the helicopter or to have it put on standby. Hodges said care at the scene has improved dramatically in recent years: “There are so many more paramedics and a higher level of care that didn’t used to be there.” Still, on board, Life Net paramedics and nurses frequently administer IV fluids, provide chemical sedation, insert breathing tubes and manage ventilators. Hodges said the job involves a lot of preplanning and continuous reassessment so when the helicopter lands and the patient is rushed into CUMC, he or she potentially can be wheeled right into the operating room if necessary.
Medical helicopter trips can cost thousands of dollars but trauma remains the leading cause of death in those 44 and under. Motor vehicle, farm and all-terrain vehicle accidents top the list of what the Life Net team sees. Hodges may deal with the drama of life and death every day, but he said, “The most memorable cases are the ones with the good outcome you really didn’t expect. We deal with a lot of really sick or injured patients. We like to help with the good outcome. It’s all about the job for us.”
The Life Net helicopter is based at the Fremont Area Medical Center to serve patients in areas northwest of Douglas County. Being located there could make the difference between a good and a bad outcome for trauma, heart attack or stroke patients, allowing them to receive care at Alegent Creighton University Medical Center 15 to 20 minutes sooner. A second medical helicopter being used in the Omaha area will remain in its current location.
For more information on Life Net, go to AirMethods.com