Careflight Lands New Helicopter

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Think of it as a big green ambulance, but the driver doesn’t have to worry about traffic. The H145 can travel from Sioux Falls to Mitchell in about 30 minutes.

It’s Avera Health’s latest medical transportation vehicle and its operators say its speed and gadgets will save lives. You won’t see this machine on the road, though. The new addition will enhance Avera’s Careflight program. A local woman knows firsthand why this resource is important. 

At the beginning of the day, when the sun hits the helicopter just right, a glimmer of green catches the eye.

“It is the absolute Cadillac of aircrafts for us,” Anna Vanden Bosch, Clinical Care Manager of Careflight Services, said. 

Sure, the Airbus H145 is a brand new fancy helicopter. Here is how Vanden Bosch sees it: it’s another chance to save a life. 

“If you can dream it in the ICU, we can essentially have it in this aircraft,” Vanden Bosch said. 

We took a ride in the new helicopter. The service helps critically injured or sick patients, especially in rural areas, get to medical help fast. 

“Also has the latest and greatest avionics, so it’s kind of like playing a big video game,” pilot Sean Ihnen said. 

Vanden Bosche says the H145 is the next level of medical flight care. It has a lot of space, and is essentially a state-of-the-art emergency room in the air. It also has a very smooth ride, so patients have a more comfortable flight with fewer vibrations. 

“That’s so important because we’re able to maneuver around the patients and be able to do special procedures on them that necessarily aren’t the easiest in smaller aircrafts, you could say,” Vanden Bosch said. 

H145, also flagged as 605 AV, joins another helicopter, and two fixed wing planes in the fleet. If all of these buttons, gadgets, gizmos, and switches don’t quite click with you, this next part may help the helicopter land a place in your heart. Meet Mary Leedom. She’s the first to vouch for Careflight. 

“Every time I see a helicopter go over, I say a little prayer for the person inside, because I know how important that transportation is,” Leedom said. 

Leedom works for Avera as the assistant vice president for perioperative services. She has history as a nurse and clinician, but there are eight other reasons why Careflight means so much to her. 

“I have five grandchildren, and three more on the way. All of that I would’ve missed had I not had my life saved that day,” Leedom said.

That day was four years ago. Leedom gave a presentation at a work retreat in Irene, South Dakota.

“I was told I collapsed in the middle of a presentation,” Leedom said. 

Doctors found Leedom had a ruptured brain aneurysm. 

“I was a goner. The surgeons in Rochester told me I had a seven percent chance of living,” Leedom said. 

Odds are, Leedom would’ve died. She says Careflight and its staff saved her. 

“I’m able to walk and I’m able to talk and I’m able to function and I’m able to return to work and I don’t think that would’ve happened had we not shaved minutes off the transportation,” Leedom said. 

With a new helicopter in its fleet, Avera hopes to continue to chop transport time and give patients the best outcomes possible. 

“We are able to perform all of those procedures and care for those patients in a way that we would at a bedside,” Vanden Bosch said. 

At the end of the day, Vanden Bosch says this fancy new helicopter may give patients a glimmer of hope. For Mary Leedom, Careflight and everyone on board, gave her a second chance to live her life. 

“I believe it was a gift and I believe God kept me alive for a reason. I don’t really know what that reason is, for sure, but I hope my story inspires others,” Leedom said. 

To learn more about Careflight, visit this website

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