Whether they be local residents or guests to Yellowstone National Park from around the world, people facing medical emergencies in the West Yellowstone area are in good hands thanks to Air Methods' Air Idaho Rescue programme. The air medical crew has recently transported its 1,000th patient.
The team of four pilots, one mechanic, three flight nurses and three flight paramedics has operated the seasonal base in West Yellowstone, Montana for the past nine years, serving the area from approximately May through October.
“Our 1,000th flight is a big deal to us because it means there are 1,000 people we have been able to help during their greatest time of need,” says flight paramedic Tom Cadmus. “Our service area is mostly wilderness and mountains, so we care for a variety of medical needs including complications from altitude related illnesses, injuries from outdoor adventure activities, as well as life threatening medical events like heart attacks and strokes.”
The West Yellowstone area is serviced by medical clinics, so patients with critical emergencies need to be transported farther distances to hospitals for definitive care. Fortunately, Air Idaho Rescue's AS350 helicopter functions as a flying ICU and can get to the closest hospital in approximately 45 minutes rather than the over three hours that the drive can take when traffic is heavy in the park. It carries a team of trauma clinicians, along with the equipment and medications needed for medical emergencies. They also carry blood on board the aircraft and can administer it in flight to patients suffering from severe blood loss or haemorrhagic shock.
“Because parts of the park are so remote, it can be hard to access patients without a helicopter,” says Jill Egan, account executive with Air Methods. “Our pilots have extensive experience and can manoeuvre nimbly in this environment to help ensure people get the emergency care they need when every minute counts.”
The flight crew works very closely with the ground ambulance providers in the area and partnered with Hebgen Basin Fire and EMS on the 1,000th flight.
“The providers we work with on the ground are some of the best around,” says Cadmus. “We are grateful for the strong partnerships that not only create a positive working environment, but ultimately provide the best care for our patients.”
When the West Yellowstone base closes for the season, the area will still be supported by Air Idaho Rescue thanks to its base in Driggs, Idaho. Both bases are part of air medical service provider Air Methods.