Ft. Lauderdale (CBSMiami) – A trip to the trauma center, strapped to a gurney in the back of a helicopter, is the one-way ride that no one ever wants to make.
However, according to Broward Sheriff’s Office, people are taking that ride several times a day, almost every day, in Broward County.
Critically injured patients are flown at speeds of up to 140 miles-per-hour to the emergency room. Flight medics say half of the victims they fly are conscious and aware of their injuries while the other half, they said, are unconscious.
Doctors often refer to the first hour after a traumatic injury as “the golden hour” or the most vital 60 minutes for someone to get the help they need for the greatest chances of survival.
“That patient needs to be in surgery within an hour’s time,” said BSO Capt. Mike Kane.
Kane and other BSO flight medics have taken the concept of “the golden hour” one step further.
According to air rescue medics, their goal time in a life-threatening transport is seven minutes. Kane, who has been with BSO for 20 years next month, 15 of them as an air rescue medic, believes that seven is the magic number.
“From touch-down on a scene, to lift-off with a patient to the ER, our goal is not to be on the ground any longer than seven minutes,” said Kane.
The air rescue teams are on duty for 24-hours, and then off for rest.
Capt. Kane is married with 3 children. As a father, he said he is reminded that every patient he and his team transports is special.
“There is a day that doesn’t go by where I don’t reflect upon that and actually see my children’s eyes in the faces of a lot of these patients we transport,” said Kane.
Air rescue is launched to a scene when traumatic injuries are reported in the furthest corners of the county and when it seems that ground transport to the hospital will exceed 20-minutes.
“On a busy day we can transport upwards of three or four patients on our shift,” said Capt. Kane.
Calls for air rescue are called-in on police radio and a digital pager system, within seconds of the call an alert siren sounds in the BSO Aviation Hangar.
“We’re always waiting for the next call to happen,” Kane said. From children, to the elderly, the Captain said he’s attended to them in the sky, for the fast trip to the hospital.
“When that siren goes off, your heart rate goes from zero to 100 in an instant,” he said.
Deputy Carl Spear is a 10-year veteran of the skies for BSO. While Captain Kane is attending to a patient in the back, Deputy Spear is focused on piloting the six million dollar helicopter as safely and quickly as possible to one of Broward’s three major trauma centers.
“As pilots, we try not to get too involved with the patients, to keep our focus,” said Dep. Spear. “I’ve worked the road, and SWAT, but, by far, this is the most rewarding assignment.”
On the air rescuers job, the clock is always ticking and lives hang in the balance.
“Success has many fathers, and so does saving lives,” said Capt. Kane.
“We’re all links in this life saving chain, from the pilot, to the flight medics, to the first responders on the scene of an accident, all the way to the team at the ER.”