People share stories of Air Evac as it marks 20 years in Quincy

Flight Nurse Jennifer Roberts talks about the equipment in an Air Evac helicopter during an open house at the Air Evac Lifeteam base on the Blessing Hospital Campus on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017. The open house celebrated 20 years in Quincy. | H-W Photo/Jake Shane
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Oct. 12, 2017 8:41 am Updated: Oct. 12, 2017 8:45 am
Russell Flick

QUINCY — A flight paramedic with Air Evac Lifeteam in Quincy for about a year, Russell Flick knows how important air ambulance service is in the region. His daughter's life was saved with its help.

Reese Flick fell off a swing set on Sept. 23, 2013, and as a paramedic in the rural community for about a year, Russell

Flick responded.

“The only backup I had was another ground ambulance more than 30 miles away or Air Evac 5 out of Quincy, Ill.,” Flick said. “When I went to her side, she was not breathing. She fell and hit her head. She had a skull fracture and traumatic brain injury.”

He shared his story to the crew members and officials with Air Evac as well as others who attended Wednesday's 20th anniversary celebration of the Air Evac base at Blessing Hospital in Quincy.

Reese made a full recovery from her injuries, but at the time, Flick knew his 2-year-old daughter had a slim chance of survival.

“If she had a chance, it was going to be that helicopter,” Flick said. “I remember calling my partner on the radio to bring an ambulance, and the next thing I said was 'launch a helicopter.'”

Reese needed a Level 1 trauma center, but storms prevented the air ambulance from heading anywhere except Blessing Hospital.

“One of the Air Evac crew members came to me and said 'Don't worry we're going to take care of her just like she's our own child,'” Flick said. “And that's the feeling I got. That's the hope that I needed. That's the hope that I want to be today and why I'm here.”

Brandon Buckman, Air Evac program director in Quincy, said the response Flick described is one of many reasons an air ambulance would be called out. The base employs 15 people, including pilots, nurses and paramedics.

“It could be an inter-facility transfer out of one of the many area hospitals,” Buckman said. “It could be a scene flight, which could be a heart attack, a stroke, a car accident, some type of trauma-related incident.”

Companywide, Air Evac air ambulances have an average lift-time of seven minutes.

As a brief presentation was about to start, the crew received a call about a rollover crash near Loraine, and crews prepared to depart. Before they could takeoff, they were called off.

Besides medical flights, Air Evac teams work with area emergency agencies and hospitals for training. This includes working with paid and volunteer fire departments on setting up landing zones. Crew members also serve as American Heart Association instructors for basic and advanced life saving techniques.

Before the Quincy Air Evac base opened in 1997, the closest helicopter service was in Columbia, Mo., St. Louis or helicopters from the Illinois Department of Transportation, which were available for hospital transfers only.

John Landis, regional director of base operations, said air ambulance service came to Quincy during the flooding of 1993 when bridges connecting Missouri and Illinois were closed. The temporary service from a St. Louis company lasted 90 days, and officials started exploring a permanent service soon after.

When Air Evac came to Quincy, it was the companies fourth air base. It now operates more than 125.

“I think Air Evac has been a great asset to our community and the community has treated Air Evac very well,” Landis said. “The hospital has been more than a gracious host to Air Evac.”

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