Dream Comes True for Mt. Airy Paramedic

February 17, 2011

Winston-Salem, NC – Feb. 17, 2011 -- Growing up in Mt. Airy, Roger Horton dreamed about flying and being a paramedic.  Now, his dream has come true.

He is one of eight members of the Surry EMS to be selected for AirCare, the air ambulance service of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.  An AirCare helicopter soon will be based at the Elkin Municipal Airport.

Horton remembers when his friend, Barry McMillian, came into Snappy Lunch on Main Street about 12 years ago and talked to him about becoming a paramedic.  “I had been in the restaurant business for years and was working at Snappy’s at the time,” said Horton.

“I thought about it and decided to pursue my dream,” he recalls.  Horton enrolled in Surry Community College, attending classes at night for two and one-half years while continuing to work.  After completing his training, he became a paramedic and was hired full time in 2000 as a member of the Surry EMS squad. 

Horton, now 47, is an outstanding paramedic.  He is the 2009 and 2010 State Paramedic competition champion along with McMillian, and the 2009 International Trauma Life Support competition champion, along with McMillian and another friend, Robert Coleson.  Horton also works part time in the Emergency Department of Northern Hospital as a patient care technician and is a clinical instructor in the Surry Community College program for paramedics.

Along the way, he earned an Associate’s degree in EMS Technology from Southwest Virginia Community College.

“I enjoy taking care of people in times of need, and I am interested in flying,” Horton says.  “So I jumped at the chance to apply to be a paramedic on AirCare.

“This is a great opportunity to represent Wake Forest Baptist, while continuing to be a member of the EMS, working on the ground,” Horton said.  “AirCare is the gold standard of air medical service.” 

Wake Forest Baptist approached Surry County to suggest that AirCare be based in Surry County to reduce response time in emergency situations. While Elkin and Surry County are working together to prepare the airport for the helicopter and crew, AirCare 2 is based in nearby Boonville.

“Having the helicopter in Surry is a good idea,” said John Shelton, director of emergency services for Surry County.  “It will expedite service to counties in this region and strengthen our relationship with Wake Forest Baptist.”

AirCare treats patients with a variety of critical conditions, including trauma, cardiac, pediatric and acute medical, neonatal and high risk obstetrical patients. 

“The Elkin Airport is a strategic location, which will enable AirCare to cover more of the region in a timely manner,” said Donny Lambeth, president of North Carolina Baptist Hospital.

“When lives are on the line, minutes can make the difference,” said Lambeth, who noted that AirCare has served approximately 14,000 patients in its 24-year history. 

AirCare is in the air within 10 minutes of a call, and the crew is in direct radio contact with EMS personnel at the scene or with the physician at the referring hospital.

“Medical attention is provided while the patient is being transported to the Medical Center,” said Holly Mason, RN, program manager for AirCare.  “The crew is in communication with the physicians in the emergency department en route.”

AirCare flies at a cruising speed of approximately 150 miles per hour and is equipped with instrument flight capacity, night vision goggles and weather radar. The pilot must have a commercial helicopter certificate with instrument rating and at least 2000 hours total flight time.

 “Safety is our number one priority,” added Mason, a resident of Pilot Mountain.

AirCare responds to calls from First Responders and hospitals 24/7.  The crew includes one of the eight Surry County EMS paramedics and a Registered Nurse with special training in critical care, emergency and transport nursing.  Nurses have at least five years’ critical care experience and hold multiple advanced life support certifications.

The Surry County Paramedics have completed a critical care paramedic course and are Nationally Registered Emergency Medical Technicians.  The paramedics will rotate shifts on AirCare and continue to work in their normal jobs with the Surry County EMS.

“The additional training that AirCare paramedics receive is a plus for our community, because we have a larger number of highly trained emergency services personnel,” said Shelton.  “It means that they will have a greater variety of work experiences, which will strengthen their careers and perhaps keep them in the county longer.”

The Elkin Airport has a new fuel farm, where pilots can buy fuel 24 hours a day, says George Crater, planning director for Elkin.  “We also are expanding water and sewer services and will have housing for the crew of AirCare and a maintenance area,” he added. 

AirCare Critical Care Transport also includes ground transportation services with two ambulances.  “We are proud to be part of the EMS team that meets the needs of critically ill and injured patients in North Carolina and southwest Virginia,” said Mason.  “We have many agencies working together to provide the fastest, most effective transportation possible to save lives.”

Media Relations

Jonnie Rohrer: news@wakehealth.edu, 336-713-4587

Lisa Davanzo: news@wakehealth.edu, 336-713-4587