Seconds Count: Air Ambulance positioned to save lives

When seconds count, a fleet of air ambulances are strategically positioned across the area to get you the care you need as fast a possible.

Posted: Oct 28, 2017 9:19 PM
Updated: Oct 28, 2017 11:05 PM

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WFFT) - People living in northeast Indiana is only about 20 minutes away from a level two trauma center.

When seconds count, a fleet of air ambulances are strategically positioned across the area to get you the care you need as fast a possible.

The Lutheran Health Network and Parkview Health operate a combined five helicopters.
Patients across the region have come to rely on these helicopters.

Chris Harvey's wife was working a school in Adams County two years ago when her aorta dissected.

Harvey said the first responders quickly realized she only had minutes to get to a hospital, so they called Lutheran Air I from Portland to pick her up and take her to Lutheran Hospital in Fort Wayne.

"Once surgeon came back out, Dr. William Deshner, informed us she arrived here just in time. If another 15 minutes had passed, she probably would not have survived the surgery," said Chris Harvey.

That's the primary reason why the Lutheran Health Network and Parkview position their helicopters in outlining areas, instead of keeping them all in Fort Wayne.

"If we can be closer to where these communities are that need to go to a tertiary care center, then that saves the patient that time on ground transport and they can get to the care they need faster," said Krista Quinones, Lutheran Health Network's Network VP for Strategic Development.

"In the air medical transport business, what you want to do is decrease your out of hospital time. Having that second aircraft to respond quicker, we are able to cut off that first part of getting to the patient," said Parkview's Director of Flight and EMS Chad Owen.

Parkview was the first health network in Northeast Indiana to operate an air ambulance when it started the Samaritan Air program in 1989.

"There were only three hospitals in Fort Wayne. Your primary tertiary (highly specialized) care was out of Indianapolis. If you were severely injured in a car accident, you would have to be taken to Indianapolis to get the majority or your work," Owen said.

The helicopters are only dispatched or put on standby if first responders request one. 

Then, the closest helicopter will take the patient to the closest trauma center, regardless of health network, traveling at 150 miles an hour.

"We are just one piece to a puzzle that tries to exceed the outcomes we want for our patients," said Owen.

Each flight crew is made up of three people, a pilot, a paramedic and a flight nurse.

The crews are able to help people as if they were in the emergency room.

Helicopters are stocked with enough supplies, such as blood and pain medication, to keep people alive as they are flown to the emergency room.

That's something Harvey said he's thankful for.

"I can't imagine what it would be like without here," Harvey said. "(Life) would be totally different. My wife of 28 years, the mother of my three children, would no longer be here."

When LHN started its air program in 2004, it was also based in Allen County at the Fort Wayne International Airport.

Lutheran Air I was moved to Portland when Lutheran Air II was put in service, based in Wabash.

"I'm so glad you're here doing what you do because without you, she wouldn't be here today," Harvey said.

Lutheran's helicopters are based in Portland, Wabash and Knox. Parkview's helicopters are based in Fort Wayne or Auburn (depending on weather) and Rochester.

Parkview said it has no plans to add a third helicopter. 

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