Life Flight opens its doors to contest winners
Winners of an Intermountain Life Flight Facebook contest waited patiently for the opportunity to snap pictures and climb inside the new Augusta Grand helicopter.
Before they were able to tour the helicopter, they first received some information about why the new helicopter and all the aircraft are important to Intermountain Health's patient care.
"Every minute is important. The faster we can get [to the patient], the sooner the patient gets the care they need," said Lori Merrit, IHC pediatric nurse and flight crew member.
IHC flight crews are passionate about their jobs and the services they provide, said Andrea Clement, a pediatric nurse who has been flying with Life Flight for 14 years.
"When people don't have the opportunity or the resources to get the care they need, we take the resources to them," said Wade Bennington, an intensive-care unit nurse and flight crew member. "We are able to give a lot of people the opportunity to have good medical service that they normally wouldn't have."
The airplanes have enough space to bring two adults with the patient to the hospital, but helicopters only have enough space to transport the person needing care. The new Augusta Grand helicopter is able to bring one rider, usually a parent, back with the patient.
"The worst part of our job is when we have to take a child and not be able to bring the parent with us," Clement said.
Space in the helicopters is limited and the temperature inside can reach 120 degrees. The flight crew is required to wear 10 pounds of gear, including flight suits and helmets.
Because of the restricted space and weight-carrying capacity of the helicopter, each member of the flight crew has a weight restriction of 205 pounds. Members are weighed every three months, and if they are over the limit, they are given 60 days to work the weight off. Flight crew members unable to weigh less than 205 are released from flying.
The summer heat makes the helicopters more heavy and burn fuel faster than in the cold winters. The aircrafts are restricted to a 150-mile radius because there are not many places to refuel. If someone needs attention outside the 150-mile radius, an airplane is sent instead.
IHC's new Augusta Grand helicopter, which began transporting patients in June, has retractable landing gear, allowing the craft to fly with less air resistance. A flight from Orem to Primary Children's Hospital typically takes 18 minutes, but the new helicopter was able to make the flight in 12 minutes, flying nearly 200 mph, Clement said.
As soon as they were able, 7-year-old McKay Seiter of Taylorsville and 8-year-old Hayden Held of Riverton climbed inside the helicopter to look around and try on the flight helmets.
"He was really excited," said Tayasha Held. "He couldn't wait to get here."
The six participants were able to sit inside the new helicopter and hear stories from the crew about flying hundreds of feet in the air while providing emergency care.
"I don't think I would want to be a patient in 120 degrees," said Scott Seiter.
"We have drugs that would make you not remember a thing," Clement said with a smile.
Nurses and nurse paramedics all participate in a six-month orientation to learn the emergency procedures they are required to perform while in flight. Because there are only two nurses in the air, they have to rely on each other to be able to provide the care the patient needs, Clement said.
If an ambulance is unable to reach the patient because of terrain, significant road traffic or distance, they call the aircraft to help. IHC Life Flight participates in hospital transfers, scenic flights and emergency pickups. Weather does not stop a flight unless two members of the flight crew are not comfortable in the current conditions.
"Safety of the patient and crew members is the most important thing," Merrit said.
Ken and Jennie Petrano of Kaysville were also able to sit in the helicopter and talk to the flight crew.
"The tour of Life Flight is really neat and interesting," Jennie Petrano said. "I love helicopters and it's always something I've been interested in."
Life Flight tour
Participants won a drawing on Facebook.
They were able to sit in the helicopter and talk with Life Flight medical staff.
IHC acquired a new Augusta Grand helicopter in June. It flies faster and allows for a passenger along with a patient.