Elkin will soon see a newer emergency helicopter flying in and out of the airport.
AirCare, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center’s critical care transportation service, next week will begin replacing its fleet of older helicopters with three newer aircraft.
The helicopters will continue to be based at Davidson County Airport in Lexington, Elkin Municipal Airport in Surry County and Blue Ridge Regional Airport in Henry County, Virginia.
The twin-engine Airbus H135 helicopters offer many advantages over AirCare’s existing aircraft, including increased speed, the ability to carry more weight, and the ability to fly using instrument flight rules, which Baptist says will allow flights in more adverse weather conditions.
In conjunction with this change, Wake Forest Baptist is the first air medical service in North Carolina and Virginia to provide whole blood products, which can be used in blood transfusions for people suffering severe blood loss from traumatic injuries.
Whole blood is more routinely used over component blood (such as plasma) when there is substantial blood loss or to treat severe anemia or thrombocytopenia, a condition with a very low platelet count.
In February, the Journal of Emergency Medical Services published a report that said many EMS services were returning to whole blood for a variety of reasons.
“These helicopters really allow us to bring the ICU to the patient,” said Chadwick Miller, M.D., chair of emergency medicine at Wake Forest Baptist, which is the only Level I adult and pediatric trauma center in the region and one of only two burn centers in the state.
“Our AirCare program continues to further extend the expertise and specialized care capabilities of our academic medical center to the communities with sophisticated life support and patient care equipment.”
In addition to the pilot, each AirCare flight crew includes a nurse and paramedic who have undergone extensive training in the critical care and transportation of seriously ill or injured patients.
Wake Forest Baptist is partnering with Metro Aviation Inc. of Shreveport, Louisiana, one of the nation’s largest providers of medical transport helicopters and related aviation services, to operate and maintain the helicopters, and provide the pilots and mechanics.
Surry County EMS provides paramedics who rotate on duty with the helicopter in Elkin, with Baptist providing the county $350,000 for their salaries.
AirCare responds to calls from first responders and hospitals around the clock. A helicopter is airborne within minutes of receiving a call. While in the air, the crew is in direct radio contact with EMS personnel at the scene or the physician at the referring hospital, and with physicians in Baptist’s emergency department.
A new operations center, housed within Baptist’s Winston-Salem campus and connected to the Metro Aviation operational control center, enables critical care air and ground transports to be quickly dispatched, while also providing a seamless transfer process for referring physicians and hospitals.
Since it was established in 1986, AirCare has responded to about 25,000 calls from North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee and South Carolina. The service makes about 1,200 flights a year, treating and transporting adults and children suffering from trauma, burns, stroke, heart attacks and complex medical conditions.
Jeff Linville may be reached at 336-415-4692.