Regional West Air Link Flies One Millionth Mile

Scottsbluff, NE - On June 15, in the air above eastern Wyoming, the Air Link Flight team consisting of Dee Vogel, RN, BSN, CFRN, Brian Donaldson, NREMT-P and pilot Tom Dey wrote a new page in the history books. The crew, transporting a patient from Wheatland, Wyo. to Cheyenne Regional Medical Center logged the one millionth mile flown since the inception of the flight program at Regional West in 1995.

In the spring of 1992, all that was in place was a vision; an idea that Regional West could provide superior care through critical care air transport cases. Under the direction of Dr. Lloyd M. Westerbuhr, medical director of trauma services from 1992 to 2004, Regional West was rapidly building a reputation as a Level II trauma center. But Dr. Westerbuhr and his team faced the reality of rural medicine: vast distances between patients and hospitals that could provide the care they needed. In some cases, transport times were determining the quality of patient outcomes.

Today, sixteen years later, we know that time is one of the most critical factors in treating debilitating injury or illness. “When the Air Link Flight Team was called from Scottsbluff, I questioned why the helicopter was coming for me and I was told that time was of the essence. They said that I probably would not survive the time it would take for an ambulance to transport me to Scottsbluff,” shared patient Paulette Thomas. Thomas was a guest speaker at the recent Air Link open house. Transported from Alliance, she arrived at Regional West and was taken directly into surgery to correct a life-threatening problem.

The success of the Air Link program requires far more than just the presence of a helicopter. Highly skilled, motivated, and knowledgeable flight team members must be able to perform at consistently high level functions on every flight. Peter Meyer, MD, Air Link Medical Director, and current flight team members spend multiple hours each month in training. They also review charts from past flights to determine how quality can be improved on future flights.

Air Link is proud to serve a four-state region, including 28,000 square miles in Nebraska alone. They are grateful for the support they receive from partner agencies across this area:

“We would not be here if it weren’t for the critical access hospitals, the facilities in Colorado, Wyoming, and South Dakota that call us for facility transfers or the volunteer and paid fire and emergency medical services that request our services. Thanks to all of you for helping us reach this milestone,” said Dr. Meyer.