When someone lands in serious trouble, Boston MedFlight takes off. Time can mean the difference between life and death and there are no red lights in the sky.
With bases in Plymouth and in Bedford at Hanscom Air Force Base, the 24-hour operation never stops. It takes only about seven minutes from when a call comes in, to get the helicopter in the air.
Captain John Benvenuti, Jr. is one of the helicopter pilots. Like many of his colleagues he flew in the military before coming to MedFlight. Combat training comes in handy, considering these pilots land just about anywhere; highways, rooftops, even the beach.
“They can be challenging sometimes they are tight and it’s windy out like today and we act as a team to make sure we get in and out safely,” Benvenuti says.
The helicopters often transfer the sickest patients from one hospital to another, but the crews in blue are best known for scene calls. The requests come into the communications center from first responders, usually fire fighters. Car crashes, fires, shootings, and industrial accidents. If it’s bad, Boston MedFlight is probably going.
“One of the things all of our patients have in common, probably the only thing they all have in common, is that when they woke up this morning, they never knew they were going to need us,” says MedFlight’s medical director and CEO Dr. Suzanne Wedel.
The view from the 11,000 pound Sikorsky helicopter is amazing, but even more amazing is what it is equipped with. The helicopter is like a flying I.C.U. In the small space, just 8x6, the medical personnel can perform a number of complex procedures.They could be incubating a patient on one trip, and delivering a baby on the next.
With buildings all around, landing on the roof of a Boston hospital is a powerful reminder that this is a high risk job. When asked how often she thinks about the risks, critical care flight nurse Corrine Foster says, “I don’t, what will be, will be. My family thinks about it though.”
While interviewing flight paramedic Todd Denison, a scene call comes in from the Gloucester Fire Department. The patient is an 82-year-old woman with internal injuries. The trip from Bedford to Gloucester takes just 12 minutes in the sky. The landing zone is a ball field next to the O’Malley School. After the patient is loaded into the helicopter, the medical personnel provide care and comfort en route to Beth Israel hospital. When the helicopter arrives, a trauma team is waiting.
Boston MedFlight will do 2,000 of these helicopter missions every year, in addition to transporting patients by ground and by jet.