In life and death situations, every second counts.
Until now, emergency responders were at the mercy of the U.P.’s vast nature, rushing to remote locations as quickly as their vehicles could take them. But, Thursday marked a changing of the guard.
Anyone who has been involved in a traumatic accident knows that time is everything. With 3% of the population of Michigan spread out across 16,000 plus square miles of wilderness, emergency responders have their work cut out for them.
EMT ground support now has help from above.
Marquette General Hospital will now serve as a Valley Med Flight emergency transport location, providing U.P. residents with around-the-clock air ambulance service.
“This is going to cut down on time, it’s going to save people who are having heart attacks, who have strokes… the time sensitive issues. This helicopter will really allow them to get their needs met a lot sooner,” said VMF Service Director Jacob Keller. “And, in medicine there’s a saying, ‘Time is tissue’, so the sooner we can get a patient to a higher level of care, the better they’ll do.”
“Right now, head injuries still come to Marquette General, it’s just that they come by ground transport, and so that may take hours,” trauma physician assistant Jodi McCollum said. “From what I do in trauma, we have injuries that are really time sensitive, such as head injuries, and if you have a bad head injury with bleeding in the brain Marquette General is the only hospital in the Upper Peninsula with surgical coverage, so those types of injuries need to get the definitive care as quickly as possible because they’re very time sensitive and we have the neurosurgeons here that can take care of that.”
This chopper packs quite a punch when it comes to saving time. Typically it churns out speeds of 135 mph, allowing the flight team to reach any point in the U.P. in under an hour.
On average, it takes an ambulance about an hour and 15 minutes to get from Escanaba to Marquette. Compare that to a paltry 24 minutes via helicopter, which offers the same level of emergency care as a hospital with just slight increase in elevation.
“We do critical care medicine, so we’re doing what happens in the ICU in this little aircraft, so that’s kind of a learning curve for a lot of people as well,” flight paramedic Greg Baty said. “Our medics bring a big block of emergency experience, our critical care nurses bring a big block of critical care experience, and then we put them in this helicopter and we kind of mesh all that.”
“One we get them out here we’ll get our nurses on the accident scenes and have them doing things medics do, we’ll get our medics in the ICU’s having them do things the nurses do so they end up being very well cross trained and being able to work together. It’s a very amazing team that meshes well together.”
Trust is key. I had plenty of faith in our pilot when I stepped on board given his 16,000 plus hours of experience. But, Baty cannot navigate the skies alone.
He depends on a second set of eyes to maneuver around power lines, cell towers, and whatever else may be in the way when heading to remote locations that would otherwise be helpless.
“When we get called, it’s when the smaller facilities who have amazing people with great providers, they just have their hands tied by their resources,” Baty said. “They call us to move them to the next level, or when the ambulance crews have gotten to a point where they can’t do any more treatments or they’re too far away to do any more effective treatments, they call us. So it’s kind of…it’s a neat feeling to know when we get called, it’s because they need the next step. We’re that next step in the level of care that treatment chain, if you will.”
So for now, the Berry Events Center parking lot on NMU’s campus will help anchor that chain, connecting the hundreds of thousand of U.P. residents to MGH’s Level II Trauma Center a whole lot sooner.