LifeFlight of Maine in a COVID-19 world: Part One

Since 1998, LifeFlight of Maine has been providing care to more than 30,000 patients
Published: Dec. 23, 2021 at 4:33 PM EST
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BANGOR, Maine (WABI) - Throughout the pandemic, we have seen what it’s like for nurses and doctors working in COVID units.

Nearing the end of the year, our health care system continues to be spread thin.

One non-profit organization playing a critical role in helping treat COVID-19 patients is LifeFlight of Maine.

Since 1998, LifeFlight of Maine has been providing care to more than 30,000 patients.

They’re an integrated medical transport system that serves the entire state with their ground ambulances, helicopters, and fixed wing aircraft.

In 2020, when the pandemic hit, they like, so many other health organizations, had to adapt to being able to care for COVID positive patients, on top of their other patients requiring emergency care.

On March 17th, 2020, they transported their first known COVID-19 patient.

On the Front Lines: LifeFlight Nurses and Paramedics

Caring for patients with COVID-19 can pose unique challenges, even when that care happens in the skies above Maine. Learn more about our LifeFlight of Maine crews and how their work has changed during the pandemic. You can view the full-length video here:

Posted by Northern Light Health on Monday, November 15, 2021

“We were learning as we went,” said Chuck Hogan, LifeFlight of Maine’s Chief Clinical Officer. “We were needing to change protocols from the way we were taking care of patients and how we were taking care of our crews from personal protective equipment and then also the cleaning of our assets and the decontamination of those assets. That has changed tremendously throughout the entire pandemic.”

Hogan says about 110 people make up LifeFlight of Maine, including 56 clinical care providers, aviation staff, and maintenance.

They all work to make the best of each patient situation.

“You’ve got the medical crew and the pilot crew. MedComm is coordinating ground coordination with different entities for ambulances, and then the hospital needs to know when you’re going to be there and what’s going to be needed when you get to the roof. So, there are a lot of moving parts, and it’s just a matter of communicating to make sure that everybody gets to where they need to be so that the patient gets the most care that’s possible,” explained LifeFlight of Maine helicopter pilot, Kirk Donovan.

Donovan operates one of LifeFlight’s three helicopters.

“We cover pretty much, on the helicopter, anywhere from Fort Kent to Boston, and we do that flight on occasion,” he said.

Throughout the pandemic, logistics have come into play, a lot.

“We only carry a certain amount of oxygen in our aircraft, so if people are requiring certain treatments, we have to plan ahead of time to have those available for the patients during transport,” explained Kevin Barry, a flight nurse for LifeFlight of Maine “It slows us down a little bit. It does not make our care any less effective and top-notch.”

Barry has been a flight nurse with LifeFlight for about four years. He previously worked at a Bangor hospital for more than a decade.

He and the other medical crew staff have been challenged to equip themselves with the proper protective equipment. That includes N95 masks, goggles, and gowns

“It takes time to get into the gear,” said flight paramedic, Brent Melvin. “We oftentimes will wear a gown to keep our flight suits clean. Normally, one of us will take a report and one of us will assess the patient, but oftentimes we’ll both get the report outside the room and prep any equipment we need outside to keep as much of it as we can from getting potentially contaminated.”

Throughout 2020, they safely took care of more than 2,200 patients. More than 900 of those were known or presumed COVID-19 positive.

We’re told those patients were all critically ill, and many had multiple complex clinical diseases in addition to COVID.

Heading into the holidays, staff ask you and your families to use caution.

“Be conscious of what you’re doing,” said Barry. “Protect yourself the best you can. Try to prevent from getting the disease because it can be very devastating.”

LifeFlight of Maine is a non-profit organization that relies on donations.

Your gift will help LifeFlight continue to answer calls from all corners of Maine.

You can support their mission by making a donation online.

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