Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center began using its newest helicopter, AirCare 2, during the month that commemorates the establishment of the air ambulance service 25 years ago.
[Update: View photos from AirCare's 25th Anniversary Celebration.]
AirCare 2 is based at the Elkin Municipal Airport to provide fast transport to calls from northwest North Carolina and southwest Virginia. The helicopter, an EC-130, is a “flying Intensive Care Unit” equipped with sophisticated life support and patient care equipment.
“Our nurses are highly-qualified in providing treatment on the ground and in the air. They do so in a calm, professional manner in crisis situations and in a confined space on the way back to the Medical Center,” said Holly Mason, R.N., program manager of AirCare.
It takes approximately 50 people to keep the two medical helicopters operational. This includes nurses, paramedics, EMT drivers, pilots and mechanics. The nurses must have at least three years experience working in the Emergency Department at Wake Forest Baptist and critical care experience, including certifications in advanced life support and pediatric advanced life support.
May marks the 25th anniversary of AirCare, which has transported approximately 15,000 patients from North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and South Carolina. The first flight was May 15, 1986 to transport a child injured in an accident in Patrick County, Virginia.
Three of the original eight flight nurses still work at the medical center. They are Susan Butler, Susan McBride and Angie Hilburn.
Butler was the chief flight nurse from 1988 to 2003. “The impact on the communities served by AirCare has been significant, not only in providing a valuable service to community hospitals and local Emergency Medical Services by bringing the resources of the medical center to their region, but also in the rapid transport of critically ill patients,” she said. Butler is now a Women’s Heart Health Coordinator.
AirCare 1 is based at the Davidson County Airport in Lexington and serves the area south of Winston-Salem. The critical care transport system also includes two ground ambulances, based at Wilkes Regional Medical Center in North Wilkesboro and Wake Forest Baptist Health Lexington Medical Center.
“We base our units in strategic locations in our service area, enabling us to reach critical patients within a 150 mile radius quickly and transport them safely to the Medical Center,” said Mason. “We are proud to be part of the EMS team that works with first responders, nurses and physicians in the emergency departments throughout this region to save lives.”
AirCare responds to calls from first responders and hospitals 24/7. The helicopter is in the air within 10 minutes of receiving a call and the crew is in direct radio contact with EMS personnel at the scene or the physician at the referring hospital.
The crew treats patients at the scene. Within 10 minutes, the aircraft usually is back in the air and the crew is in direct contact with physicians in the emergency department at Wake Forest Baptist. The crew includes a flight nurse, paramedic and pilot.
Wake Forest contracts with Air Methods, Inc., the world’s largest air ambulance operator, to supply the helicopters and pilots.The helicopters fly at 130 to 150 miles per hour.
AirCare 2 carries the new Wake Forest Baptist brand.
Wake Forest Baptist is the only Level One Trauma Center in the region, having first been designated in l982 as the only Level One Pediatric Trauma Center in North Carolina and one of two burn centers in North Carolina.
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