The holidays are a time of year when we each think about the people we care about and all that we have to be thankful for. To the usual list of family, friends, and other blessings, my list includes an unlikely addition: the doctors, medical teams, and emergency air medical crew who saved my life.
It seemed like just another day last year, until my daughter heard me fall to the ground as I was getting out of bed. I had suffered a massive stroke, and she called 911. Paramedics arrived quickly and transported me to my local hospital. After tests and medication had been administered, the hospital determined that I needed a specialized procedure – one that was beyond their capabilities.
Thankfully, St. Mary’s Medical Center offered that procedure. However, the 50-minute drive was more than what we could spare, given my condition. If it wasn’t for the speedy work of an air medical team that transported me, I likely would not have made it through.
I owe so much to the doctors who treated me at each facility and the experienced flight crew who ensured I arrived as quickly as possible. In a matter of minutes, I arrived at St. Mary’s and was taken to the operating room, and came out of the procedure healthy and greeting my family – who had just arrived by car.
If it wasn’t for the speed and efficiency of the air medical services I received, I genuinely believe I wouldn’t be here today. For the nearly 800,000 Americans who suffer from a stroke each year, minutes can mean the difference between life and death. The time it takes to get the necessary care also significantly affects a patient’s quality of life moving forward.
The flight nurse and medic were by my side throughout the flight, continually providing care and words of encouragement. They kept me informed and ensured that my condition remained stable. Most importantly, they communicated with the medical staff at St. Mary’s even before I arrived.
Looking back, it’s clear to me that the emergency air medical transport services I received that day were instrumental in my successful recovery. It’s scary to think about where I would be without that quick transport. Today, many people who have suffered the same kind of episode are confined to a wheelchair because they couldn’t receive the proper treatment quickly enough.
Fortunately, most of the care I received that day was covered by my insurance. However, some people aren’t as lucky with their insurer. Due to insufficient reimbursement rates, some air medical providers are being forced to close bases and wind down their operations because it isn’t financially possible to keep operating 24/7/365 air medical bases.
I recognize just how important it is to preserve access to emergency air medical services. Strokes are scary, and can happen unexpectedly to just about anyone. But there is comfort that comes from knowing that emergency air medical services are available to extend the reach of hospitals and trauma centers to get people the help they need, when they need it.
I’m beyond grateful for these life-changing services and it is my sincere hope that these important services remain available for people who need it most. You never know when it will save someone’s life.
Dennis Mullen is stroke survivor who lives in Palm City. He is retired, and he and his wife have three daughters.