TYLER, TX – Flight For Life is celebrating 30 years of saving lives across East Texas and beyond with an Open House at Tyler Pounds Regional Airport and an Anniversary Celebration Event at KE Bushman’s Center in Bullard on April 9.
In December of 1985, the Flight For Life air medical program was born out of necessity. Trinity Mother Frances recognized a need for rapid transport, of critically ill and injured patients from isolated rural medical facilities and EMS agencies to more tertiary care centers such as Good Shepherd Medical Center and Mother Frances Hospital. Today, Flight For Life provides helicopter transportation for patients needing critical care service within a 100-mile radius of the Palestine, Winnsboro, Wills Point, and Gregg County Airport bases. FFL teams include pilots, flight nurses and flight paramedics. Flight For Life completes in excess of 1200 patient care transports each year, and when requested, Flight For Life also assists medical helicopter programs in Dallas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and other nearby areas.
“Flight For Life is a living symbol of the ideology and mission of Trinity Mother Frances and the Sisters Of the Holy Family of Nazareth who have always sought to eliminate barriers to providing optimal service and care where it was needed the most,” said Scott A. Kunkel RN, MBA, NREMT-P, CMTE, FP-C, CCP-C, Chief Administrative Officer, Flight For Life. “Going all the way back to the beginning of Trinity Mother Frances Hospital when the Sisters opened the hospital ahead of schedule to help those affected by the New London School Disaster; when the community had a need Mother Frances responded and continues to respond. Since 1985 Mother Frances’ reach of caring to the communities of East Texas has expanded exponentially, now even including areas of Southern Oklahoma and Western Louisiana. At present day, Flight For Life is based in four locations in northeast Texas to ensure that the world-class tertiary care offered by the Trinity Mother Frances can be accessed in timely manner, whether you live in a rural farming community or in the city; a team of highly-skilled specialty care clinical providers of Trinity Mother Frances Health System are just minutes from your front doorstep.”
“The level of critical care available via Flight For Life has increased exponentially, as has healthcare in general,” said Paul Wheeler, RN, ACNP-BC, LP, CFRN, CCRN, one of the original flight nurses who still serves patients today. “We are well educated in mechanical ventilation, from infant to adult, 12 lead EKGs interpretation, chest tube thoracostomy, surgical cricothyroidotomy, transcutaneous and transvenous pacemaker utilization, ultrasound guided central venous line placement, ultrasound guided arterial line placement, night vision goggles utilization, EFAST ultrasound examination for internal trauma, cardiovascular ultrasound examination for fluid responsiveness, hemodynamic monitoring, Intra-aortic balloon pump care and transport, venous as well as arterial point-of care labs in flight, and we have a satellite phone to aid in communications just to state a few of the incredible medical advancements available to patients in the air.”
All of the Flight Nurses and Flight Paramedics in Flight For Life are required to be dual certified in critical care at the national level within one year of their starting date. We know of no other program in our state that requires this level of validation of critical care.
“From the day we started – Dec. 15, 1985 – until today, FFL has come a long way, from a one-helicopter service to now a four-helicopter service serving hundreds of thousands of square miles,” said Stacy Gregory RN, ACNP-BC, LP, CFRN, CMTE, Interim Clinical Director of FFL. “We have also grown professionally and technically. We have used Evidence Based Practice knowledge to expand our program and serve a wider population as well as to provide more in-depth care. In the past, helicopters were used for rapid transport exclusively, now we offer many of the medications and interventions that patients would previously have had to wait until arrival at the hospital to receive. We have learned over time that the faster we can intervene with critical illnesses and injuries, the more likely it is that we can improve outcomes – saving more lives.”
“Flight For Life was a one-helicopter, hospital-based program created to meet the needs of our East Texas community 30 years ago,” said Mark Anderson, MD, Chief of Emergency Services for Trinity Mother Frances Hospitals and Clinics. “It provided a much needed critical care service and transport solution to a growing community, and it was the first in this area! Today, the mission of FFL remains the same, even as the capabilities and range of care has drastically expanded. When patients need rapid care the most, Flight For Life is there to help. It’s a critical part of the healthcare community of East Texas and the state – it brings a piece of the hospital to their doorstep.”