RENO, Nev. (News 4 & Fox 11) — Our access to the outdoors and its natural beauty is a privilege that doesn't come without danger. The team at Care Flight plays an important role in making sure that, when danger strikes in the wilderness, they can quickly get you out of it.
Ask any law enforcement or safety professional—When an outdoor emergency occurs, minutes, even seconds, matter.
One can make the easy mistake, which I made multiple times while trying to learn more about the team, of assuming Care Flight operates rescue helicopters that drop rope into canyons and deploy divers above water—this is what they currently do.
But boiling it down, you'll find it's just as impressive of a team as it operates up to 10,000 feet in the air as a flying intensive care unit (ICU).
Considering northern Nevada is one of the most challenging regions to fly in and out of in the United States, the team at Care Flight is a vital resource in rural and remote areas.
Chad Adair, a Med-Trans Pilot contracted with Care Flight, said:
We have a lot of high mountainous terrain up here that can present some challenges. The higher you go and the hotter the temps are the harder the helicopter has to work. So up in the mountains can be challenging -- especially with the winds everybody is familiar with in the Sierras.
The job has some of the best views in the region, but it also comes with sky-high expectations for roughly 50 team members. Those expectations start on the ground—before anything even happens in the air.
We watched as Care Flight's Communication Specialists balanced a lot of air traffic, calls for assistance, and set the tone for the team's response goal: working to get the crew up and directed within ten minutes of a call.
Operations Manager and Flight Paramedic for Care Flight, Vanessa Coyle, said, "Our goal is to be off the ground for any call within ten minutes. Sometimes on the longer ones, we have to fuel and do things like that but, for the most part, we are usually able to meet our mark of less than ten minutes."
Care Flight first spread its wings in 1981 with just one aircraft. Now, five care flight bases collectively cover 50,000 square miles, including parts of California. The team is made up of four helicopters (Airbus H125), one fixed-wing (Pilatus PC-12/45), and one critical care ground transport.
One aircraft usually covers about 300 square miles in one trip. So say from Gardnerville we can go down to Yosemite. We can go down to Tonopah and then we can go back to Renown...So, instead of driving for over an hour to get to these places -- if you would have to go by ground. You can go land, we don't have to have roads, we don't have to have airports. We can just land and take and go.
Once in the air, a nurse, paramedic, and pilot perform life-saving efforts, beyond what you'd see in an ambulance, all within a space no larger than your mom's Prius.
Pete Lindley, a Care Flight Registered Nurse, showcased some of the technology built into the Airbus H125. Pete pulled out a bag full of material used to apply tourniquets and different pressure dressings, showing us the pressure bags used to initiate fluid resuscitations.
According to Pete, "If somebody quits breathing in flight and we end up having to intubate in flight en route to the hospital, we will go head and put them on the ventilator."
Now, it's possible this is just an overused pilot joke, but my dad, who is a former pilot for TWA, said you just couldn't beat the view from his office all the time.
The Care Flight team shared the same sentiment as we soared over northern Nevada's beauty and, as you know, there's lots of it—from Tahoe's fifty shades of blue, to the horses of the Virginia Range, and the history-rich Virginia City—it keeps a team like Care Flight grateful and driven to do what they do.
However, the real motivator we learned is that, no matter the altitude, it's the people and the impact the team has.
Chad shared that he's picked up patients from his hometown, Fallon, that he's known since childhood and "it just feels good to help a community that I grew up in."
When you know that you just made a difference in somebody's life because you were there that day: that is the sweet spot. I mean we get to fly around one of the most beautiful places in the country, but knowing that you seriously made a difference in somebody's life -- that is what keeps us all doing this.
Around 1,600 transports happen every single year, and the Care Flight team says their number one tip is to always have a plan and share that plan with family and friends.
If you would like to support the Care Flight team you can head here.
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