This year will mark 25 years since Lifestar began its existence as an critical care air transport service. In those days, the helicopter and its staff was based out of Loyola University Medical Center. In 2008, though, Lifestar moved locations and changed from a hospital-based service to a community-based service.
"Most patients come from this area to Loyola," Kathy Devine, medical manager and flight nurse said.
When the service was located at Loyola and a patient had to be picked up from the Kankakee area, the transport took about 30 minutes.
"Now it takes 15 minutes," she said.
Each flight that takes off from the Joliet helipad is one in which a critically ill or injured patient must get to a hospital more quickly than they could being transported on the ground. It is this ability to help that drew Devine to the company.
"You have the least amount of time to make the highest amount of impact," she said.
Each flight has a three-person crew - a paramedic, a flight nurse and a pilot. The pilot does not have medical training.
Nikki Dodge is one of the staff pilots. She has worked in a lot of different capacities as a helicopter pilot, but she finds her work with Lifestar unique.
"This is a very gratifying job; we save people's lives and make a difference," she said.
An Eye for Safety
All of the flight teams for Lifestar know that when they get a call, someone's life hangs in the balance. They also know, though, that they will do no good if they try to get to a scene in inclement weather and put themselves, their flight and their patient at risk. So, there are procedures in place to keep them as safe as possible.
First, the calls that come in do not detail the reason for the call. Only after a flight is accepted does the crew know if there is an injured or ill adult or child. In addition, when deciding whether it is safe to take flight, the saying for the crew is 'three to go and one to say no.' What that means is that in order for a flight to take off, all three crew members must agree. And only one has to speak up to keep a flight from leaving the ground.
"Some people think that decisions are made under pressure and I don't think that's the truth," Dodge, pilot said.
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