DUNCAN — Air Evac Lifeteam strives to bring air medical emergency response to rural America, a mission that prompted them to relocate their base from Lawton to Duncan’s Halliburton Field.
“The company’s mission is to provide aircraft service to the rural community,” Lori Herrian, a Certified Flight Registered Nurse and Certified Emergency Nurse, said.
“Lawton is the third largest city in the state of Oklahoma. It is becoming a receiving facility. People go into Lawton now instead of out so much. The mission of the company is to be where the aircraft is needed the quickest.”
The team arrived in Duncan Feb. 15 after spending 10 years in Lawton. The expansion also included adding an aircraft to the Altus area. The team’s primary area extends about 70 miles in each direction to include Duncan, Lawton and Altus but may also include calls as far away as Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas. Once a patient is picked up, the patient is transported to a nearby facility that is the most appropriate facility for that patient’s injury.
Program Director Heather Taylor said the helicopter can land almost anywhere allowing patients to receive help quicker than an ambulance or other medical personnel to be able to get to them.
Each crew member with Air Evac Lifeteam goes through extensive training including a six month orientation period in addition to their previous experience. When one of the company’s helicopters take to the sky, a medic and a nurse are on board with the pilot, ready to act quickly and assist with any medical emergency.
“The nurses and the medics need to have at least three years of critical care experience before even applying plus all the national certifications,” Herrian said. “We have a lot of intense training on acute injuries and interventions needed to save their lives.”
“We are very different from the paramedics you find on the street and the nurses you find in the hospital,” Nationally Registered Emergency Medical Technician and Paramedic Landon Hardin said.
Additionally, each pilot is required to have at least a commercial pilot’s license with at least 1,500 hours.
Shifts require them to be available at all hours, Herrian said, and they live a lifestyle similar to a firefighter. Until construction is completed on their living facilities at the airport, the crew is renting a home to be used as temporary quarters.
“We have what is called our base-in-the-box, which will be modular-type home for our crew quarters,” Project Director Heather Taylor said. “We will also build a hangar for easier access from the airport to wherever we need to go.”
Taylor said they anticipate a June 1 move-in date to their permanent facility.
Anyone that knows of or is involved in an emergency can call a team out to respond. The crew is ready to assist with any emergency medical situation.
“We are closer now than we ever were,” Hardin said. “In Lawton, it would take roughly 13 to 15 minutes to make it over here. When it comes to trauma, heart attacks or strokes, all that stuff is time sensitive. We shoot for an hour from the time the injury occurs to the time they are in surgery. We ate up 15 minutes of that just getting over here.”
“I, personally, have always said ‘Give me the sickest patient,’” Herrian said. I love that. I love a challenge. I trained over 10 years to have these skills. I want to use them. It is not that I want anybody to get sick or hurt but if they are going to be that way, let me be there to help take care of them.”
While Air Evac Lifeteam is funded by individual, couple or family memberships, the service is available for those who are not members. Only members will not have to pay for the cost of the transport. For membership information, call 800-793-0010 or visit www.joinlifeteam.com.
Air Evac Lifeteam has received various medical honors including accreditation by the Commission on Accrediation of Medical Transport Systems (CAMTS). Anyone needing assistance should call (800) Air-Evac.