Friday, August 23, 2013

Starflight To The Rescue!

Why would these helicopters end up on top of Enchanted Rock?  According to Starflight Program Director Casey Ping, the reasons are as diverse as the people who climb and hike at E Rock.  Sometimes it is injuries from a fall, but sometimes it is a myocardial infarction.  They get the call from a dispatcher in Llano or Gillespie County that they are needed, and the crew of three makes the trip in about 25 minutes.  Starflight is a service of Travis County, for which they have an American Eurocopter EC145 based at Brackenridge Hospital, and another at Dell Children's Medical Center.  The crew bring the patient aboard on a litter, sometimes by landing nearby, sometimes from a hover.  Sometimes the patient is delivered to a parking lot at the Rock, more often transported to a hospital in Austin or San Antonio.

Is there a fee for this service?  Yes, and it is substantial, $3,400 for a Travis County resident plus $85 per 'loaded' mile, $7,500 for a non-county resident plus $85 per loaded mile.  But, Casey says, don't make the decision for transport a financial one - they have come to save your life!  He would rather that you don't need transport because you are taking care of yourself - wearing your seatbelt, or helmet, and you aren't taking unnecessary risks.  But, if you are about to be loaded into a Starflight helicopter, be thankful you aren't being carried out on a litter by six men at a snail's pace.  Be thankful that you will be taken to a hospital in a fully equipped air ambulance, cared for by a paramedic.

There is no routine mission.  Crewmembers are paramedics and nurses.  They transport for Dell and other NICU, perform search and rescue, respond to fires.  Pilots have a minimum of 3,000 hours of flying time and the equipment is state of the art.  Sound like an interesting job?  "You bet it is!" says Casey.

Try to avoid the trip, but if Starflight is there for you, be thankful.

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