Richmond's LifeLine keeps critical care at ready

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RICHMOND, Ind. (AP) — In April, the Richmond base of IU Health LifeLine Critical Care Transport hit the ground running, so to speak.

The LifeLine facility went operational at the Richmond Municipal Airport at noon April 24, and the LifeLine helicopter was in the air doing a transport at 3:30 p.m.

"We've had at least one run every day, some days two," base supervisor Terry Barttrum told the Palladium-Item (http://pinews.co/1sa0O0k ). "The first day, we were ready to go, the call came and we went into action."

LifeLine now operates a twin-engine EC145 helicopter with pilot and emergency crew 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year at the Richmond airport. There also is an ambulance standing by for days when flying is not possible.

A pilot, a flight nurse, a paramedic and a mechanic are on duty at the airport at all times.

The net result is that critical care is that much closer for residents of Wayne, Union, Randolph, Henry and Fayette counties in Indiana and Preble and Darke counties in Ohio.

"The aircraft is set up as a critical care unit and has added safety features," said Teri Grau, LifeLine director, who also is a paramedic and registered nurse. "There are a lot of features that allow us to operate at a high level of efficiency, speed and safety."

"Our response time goal is to be in the air within 10 minutes of the first (alarm)," said flight nurse Dan Gibbs. "And typically, we're less than that."

By helicopter, it's five minutes to Reid Hospital and Interstate 70 in Wayne and Preble counties, 15 minutes to IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital in Muncie and 25 minutes from Wayne County to Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton.

"We take patients to the closest trauma center," said Barttrum, who also is a flight paramedic. "We bring trauma care to the patient as opposed to merely transporting patients to trauma care. And we get patients to trauma care much quicker."

"We call it the Golden Hour," he said. "If we can get a patient to a trauma center within an hour of the call, it increases the chances of survival exponentially."

The helicopter is rear loading, which gives the flight nurse and paramedic total in-flight access to the patient. Quarters are tight, but there's plenty of room for equipment and medications.

"A patient has to have oxygen, and it has to happen quick," Gibbs said, "so a lot of the equipment is focused on getting oxygen to the patient."

"It's really about the patient," Grau said. "That's our focus. Our closest facility was in Muncie, and we felt this region was a little underserved. Now, we can serve a larger population that needs care. It's a great opportunity."

Pilot Carey Domres has been flying for 35 years in the U.S. Navy, the Navy Reserves and for LifeLine. He said safety is the biggest focus in getting to and transporting a patient.

The helicopter is equipped with night vision flying equipment.

"That allows us to see wires, trees, antennae and gives you a better view of your landing zone at night," he said. "Those are your biggest obstacles, especially at night."

The new base at the Richmond airport is equipped with a kitchen, showers, sleeping quarters and a pilot's office.

The city spent $170,000 renovating the hangar for LifeLine.

"The city has been great to work with," said Mike Thralls, LifeLine manager, a paramedic and a flight nurse. Thralls grew up in Richmond and is a 1990 Richmond High School graduate.

"The community has been very welcoming. We're pleased to be here and look forward to serving this community," he said.

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Information from: Palladium-Item, http://www.pal-item.com

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