While on the road it is nice to know that there are emergency crews available that have our backs. For Keith and we often travel to rural areas and in northern Illinois there is a medevac helicopter dedicated to those less traveled areas along the I-80 corridor and beyond.
I had the opportunity to interview a couple emergency responders at this year’s annual Sublette Farm Toy Show for a story for Farm World. Set up behind the Ellice Dinges Center was a very cool OSF Medevac Helicopter. One of the team providing tours was Cara Adams, flight nurse for OSF, Life Alert. Cara took a few minutes to speak with me and even let me hop up inside.
She explained that OSF has three bases that they fly out of located in Rockford, Peru, and Peoria. “We serve mostly St. Francis Hospital in Peoria and St. Anthony Hospital in Rockford. We serve an area from Northern, Illinois down to Peoria.”
One of the benefits to having three bases to serve both the urban and rural areas is that if one helicopter is busy, Cara Adams said, “We can send another one of ours.”
The Medevac team responds to a variety of needs. One of the largest tasks they handle according to OSF pilot Jim Uthe, is the inter-transfer from the outlying hospitals to the larger ones in Rockford and Peoria.
I was impressed by the compact patient area and all the bells and whistles on board. It takes a lot of experience to be a flight nurse. Cara Adams has been part of the Medevac team for five years. To be part of the Medevac team she said requires, “A minimum of 3-5 years of emergency room or EMS or ICU training. Pre-hospital EMS training is also preferred. I had eight years ICU experience before coming.”
This is a specialized flying that requires the helicopter to be very experienced because they often land in fields and dangerous areas to get to the rural patient in need. “We have to watch for wires and telephone poles, the most challenging landings are in unimproved areas, “Jim Uthe added.
He has been a pilot for 13 years and serving OSF for the last 8. Being a pilot for the hospitals Jim added is the top of the line, a career goal. “This has been challenging and rewarding.”
Besides talking to Cara and Jim, Nick Dinges also gave me a few minute to tell me about responding to fire emergencies in the Sublette area. Nick is a Lieutenant in the Sublette Fire Department and a paramedic. While the Sublette fire department is a volunteer based, Nick has experience as a professional fire fighter, he worked for the Rockford, Illinois fire department for 20 years prior to moving back to Sublette. Today he sells fire trucks and fire equipment out of his business in Sublette.
Dinges added that the very busy Sublette volunteer fire department responds to about 165 incidents a year which he said is about one every other day. Many incidents are because of the nearby largest campground in the world, Woodhaven Lakes. I was amazed to learn that this is in the area!
“We live near the world’s largest campground, Woodhaven Lakes. The campgrounds are about 25% of our calls,” Nick said.
At the show we were set up in the fire department with our wares and as always are impressed by the equipment and professionalism of the department.
Whether talking helicopter staff or fire fighters and EMT’s, we are blessed to have such qualified people available to watch over us while on the road!