Lifesaving lift

By Casey Peacock: PNT staff writer

A ride with Southwest Med Evac is not one you want to make, but according to paramedics it’s a ride that can save a life in time of medical emergency.

In business since 1994, Southwest Med Evac has been servicing the local area with a fixed wing aircraft since 2000. Since Nov. 15, Southwest Med Evac has been stationed at the Clovis Airport, in the Hoffman Hanger, said Rob Campion, vice president of business development. A helicopter will be stationed at the airport 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A three-member crew, who are from the local area, consists of a pilot, flight nurse and flight paramedic who will be on duty at all times, said Campion.

“They, (crew) are constantly with the aircraft,” said Campion.

For many years, the community has had to rely on helicopters coming from other areas, said Gary Nuckols, Lieutenant and Paramedic for the Portales Fire Department. Having to wait for air transport added additional time patients had to wait to receive the care they needed, he said. In the past, ambulance crews would have to transport patients to the Muleshoe hospital for transport by air to Lubbock. Now transport to Lubbock or Amarillo will take 30 to 45 minutes. This will allow the patient to reach a trauma facility within the golden hour, said Nuckols.

The golden hour, is a time frame that paramedics use to describe how soon a patient should receive care and be transported to a trauma center.

“It’s one of the best things medically to happen to our community. It’s been a great thing for our community,” said Nuckols.

With Southwest Med Evac stationed at Clovis full-time, response is very quick, said Campion. The helicopter will fly at speeds from 120 to 130 mph. Once the helicopter is dispatched, it takes seven minutes for it to launch. From that point, it takes approximately 10 minutes to reach Portales. Once on scene, the crew will assess the patient and initiate the proper treatment, said Campion.

“The crew is usually on scene no more than seven or eight minutes,” said Barr.

According to flight nurse Christopher Barr, the helicopter allows for a speedy delivery to a trauma center, which provides for better chances of survival for the patient.

“I think the biggest thing it does is allow for speed,” said Barr. “It tends to improve their (patients’) survival,” said Barr.

Southwest Med Evac personal have extensive training for the job they do. Paramedics and flight nurses are cross-trained in one another’s job. This allows for better patient care and understanding of each person’s job. Paramedics and flight nurses are also allowed to do more procedures than ground ambulance personnel are allowed to do, said Barr.

“The most unique thing about flying, is pairing the paramedics and the nurses together,” said Barr. You get the best of both worlds, field experience and hospital experience.”

Another air ambulance service, Aerocare, has also begun service out of Clovis. In an September PNT article, it was reported that Aerocare would have a helicopter and crew based in Clovis for 12 hours per day.