Memorial Hermann Life Flight Marks 35 Years

HOUSTON — Memorial Hermann Life Flight is such an integral part of the greater Houston area’s well-being that we have trouble imagining life without it. Everyone rests a little easier knowing that a fleet of state-of-the-art helicopters stands ready to rush us to the Memorial Hermann Hospital Level One Trauma Center should disaster strike. But Life Flight hasn’t been here forever.

It was created 35 years ago this month, the brainchild of Dr. James “Red” Duke (who is still Life Flight’s medical director) and the late Lester “Whitey” Martin, former Houston Fire Department deputy chief and a champion of HFD’s early EMC services. The idea of providing emergency air transportation wasn’t altogether unprecedented in August 1976, when Life Flight began, but the Hermann air transport plan (this was before Hermann and Memorial hospitals merged) was only the second in the country, and the first in Texas. The service began with a single Alouette helicopter, and during its first month of operations, pilots Don Lock and Floyd Helm transported some 45 patients to the Hermann trauma center. Today the Life Flight fleet consists of six Eurocopter 145s, all equipped with advanced safety equipment, such as terrain awareness and traffic collision avoidance systems. Memorial Herman became a global leader in the use of night-vision technology last March, when night-vision goggles were added to their toolkit. Flight nurses and paramedics provide emergency in-flight medical care. Thanks to the leadership of Marguerite Badger, who joined the early Life Flight team as Patient Services Manager, Hermann Hospital launched its fixed-wing service in 1979, capable of rushing dangerously injured or ill people from around the world to the Houston hospital. Life Flight’s accomplishments are far too numerous to list here. When Memorial Hermann flooded during Tropical Storm Allison, Life Flight evacuated over 600 patients to other Southeast Texas hospitals in fewer than 40 hours. During Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Life Flight assisted with evacuations from hospitals in New Orleans and the upper Texas Coast. The Life Flight helicopters have flown over 130,000 missions in the past 35 years. Thanks to their efforts, the greater Houston area is a safer place to live – and it’s time to say “Thanks.”

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