On The Job With MedEvac Crew

They're the crew that flies to the farthest reaches of Kern County to bring patients with injuries and illnesses to medical treatment.

"It's never the same," Steve Lewis says. "It changes every day."

Lewis is a pilot for the Hall Ambulance MedEvac crew.

"There are a lot of 911 calls and accidents on the freeways that we respond to, and we take them to any one of the local hospitals, and we'll come back, and maybe we'll sit the next 3 or 4 hours or get sent out on another call," Lewis says.

The MedEvac crews consist of a pilot, a paramedic and a nurse. They work seven straight days, for 12 hours a day, before getting the following week off. There are four crews in all.

There could be hours of downtime, spent catching up on paperwork, dinner or video games. Then out of nowhere, the siren in the air ambulance headquarters at Meadows Field goes off and a dispatcher relays information to the crew. Minutes later, they're up in the air, flying to provide medical aid.

"It's what we're trained to do. We just react, and you're not really thinking, you just know what to do in that situation," flight nurse Tim Hattier says. "Different patient conditions, we see it all the time, every day. You're not thinking about what you're trying to do, you just do it."

After the flight, Hattier and paramedic Shawn Perryman team up to provide medical assistance to the patient and making the preparations for flight.

"It's a very unique environment in which to work," Hattier says. "The paramedic, by positioning in the helicopter, is more responsible for airway, I was doing EKG's, responsible for cardiac and we just respond to that. When we have to defibrillate, I push the button. We're a team. We just take care of what needs to be done and delegate it accordingly."

A large percentage of the air ambulance crew's flights are to Taft, the Interstate 5 corridor and the communities of Frazier Mountain.

"Flying EMS, we have to land in some harsh environments," Lewis added. "Sometimes we have to land in the middle of the freeway and have to deal with the traffic on that. Seeing what goes on in a 911 crash, it's not a pleasure to go out and see that, you know it’s part of the job and you deal with that."

The MedEvac crew cuts travel time to a hospital by up to 75 percent, which makes a world of difference in a job where time could be a life-or-death matter.

"We're providing a time savings and critical therapies that aren't available to the ground crew, and that's really why they call us," Hattier said.

"We're here to serve the county, and we're all proud of what we do," Lewis said. "[The paramedic and nurse] are the lifesavers out here. I just fly the plane, get them to the scene and get them back safely."

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