‘We’re a flying ICU’

Donating $3.3 million, Linda Bean, employees and North Haven help make LifeFlight’s third helicopter a reality

Thu, 11/20/2014 - 4:30pm

PORT CLYDE — On Aug. 11, 2013, both of Maine’s LifeFlight helicopters touched down at Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockport. 

One of those helicopters carried 9-year-old Dylan Gold of Cohasset, Massachusetts. By the time the helicopter landed, Dylan, fatally injured by an out-of-control car on the Port Clyde wharf, had already been transported via ambulance from the wharf to a ball field/makeshift landing strip in Tenants Harbor. From Pen Bay, he was transported to Maine Medical Center in Portland.  

Today, Port Clyde patients in need of LifeFlight will be met by the helicopter in Port Clyde. Private landowners David and Lori Beth Schwartz, have opened their Ballfield Road acreage to emergency helicopters. 

And, by the summer of 2015, a third $6 million LifeFlight helicopter may be in operation, thanks to a $3 million dollar donation from Linda Bean and her employees. 

“My heart is here for the urgency, for the need, of a third LifeFlight in Maine,” Bean said at a press conference today, held in Port Clyde. Bean spoke of “compelling problems of rurality in Maine,” the plant in Rockland, the agricultural centers throughout the state, and the dramas that play out on fishing boats far from medical access.

John Stevens, of Brooklin, can attest to the need of quick help the day he suffered a heart attack while lobstering miles from shore. 

At the onset of symptoms, he radioed for help before motoring to harbor. The local ambulance crew met him at the docks, realized the seriousness of his condition, and called the LifeFlight dispatch center in Bangor. 

Bean also mentioned Phyllis Wyeth, who works with the Herring Gut Learning Center in Port Clyde, and is wheelchair bound. Bean told the press of Wyeth’s sentiments, “if Lifeflight had been around at the time she needed it, her outcome would have been different.”

LifeFlight of Maine began in 1998 as the only state in the country without air emergency services, according to Tom Judge, head of LifeFlight operations in Maine. In 2008, Maine’s air emergency service was named the best system in North America. 

During 16 years of service, these “flying intensive care units” have served 18,000 patients, according to Judge. However, the need is far greater. 

“There were more than 500 times last year we got calls we couldn’t answer,” he said. “In one day there were nine calls ranging from Fort Kent, Calais, York, and Sanford, all within two hours.” 

LifeFlight averages one to two calls per 12-hour shift, according to flight nurse Kim Savage, who works out of Eastern Maine Medical Center. Prior to the 1 p.m. news conference in Port Clyde, Savage’s team had already responded to a gun shot incident in Lincoln. But with only a 30-minute flight from EMMC to Port Clyde, the afternoon conference was still attainable. 

The majority of calls are hospital to hospital tansfers, according to Jackie Turcotte, flight nurse out of Central Maine Medical Center. When Phoebe Root, now 11 years old, needed a liver transplant, LifeFlight flew her from her rural Maine home to Boston. 

When Matinicus resident Eva Murray’s plane lost power, forcing her and fellow passengers to tread water for nearly an hour, she was transported first to Pen Bay Medical Center. Care providers questioned a possible brain injury and life flighted her to Portland.

Inside the $6 million helicopters are an extra $500,000 of medical equipment. 

“We’re a flying ICU,” according to Turcotte. “We carry blood, medications, ventilators. I can run a blood lab right here and have the results within minutes.”

And with the $3 million donation, Linda Bean continues to lead the fundraising efforts. 

“Time is of the essence that LifeFlight is there for us,” she said. 

The North Haven community has donated $300,000. 

“This is the big lift, when you have many hands come together,” said Judge.

Donations can be sent to P.O. Box 899, Camden, ME 04843.


Reach Sarah Thompson at news@penbaypilot.com