Nothing exemplifies the complexities of STARS’ missions like a long weekend. With so many people enjoying the last hurrah of summer in the mountains, across the prairies or at the lake, unfortunate incidents do occur. Here is a bird’s-eye view of where our helicopters went over the Labour Day long weekend. A total of 49 missions were flown and 156 requests were received, with crews triaging several near-simultaneous calls.
Calgary flew 11 missions. Crew attended motor vehicle incidents, strokes, cardiac events, pediatrics, spinal cord injuries and a tragic train-vs-pedestrian crash. Each of these missions required our critical care expertise, and several missions were to scenes in the mountains, which required our aviation expertise. Our pilots’ skills were put to the test in a tight spot in the bush on a mountainside following a quad incident, saving the patient a bumpy ground ride around the mountain.
Edmonton flew nine missions. Crew responded to a multiple-patient, high-speed, T-bone motor vehicle collision. While crew was responding to this mission, Edmonton medical director, Dr. Eddie Chang, handled multiple interfacility transports and medical consultation calls, some simultaneously, throughout the day. Later in the weekend, while responding to a call for an abdominal aortic aneurysm, we were redirected to a motor vehicle collision and then, during the last leg of this trip, the helicopter was dispatched to a scene call near Viking for a family involved in a motor vehicle collision. The crew was faced with short turnarounds on three back-to-back missions, short-notice redirects and busy hospital emergency departments.
Grande Prairie flew three missions. Crew transported a patient who was trapped in a motor vehicle to Queen Elizabeth II Hospital and later transferred the patient to Edmonton. The crew also flew into the BC back-country to respond to a quad accident in which the patient was hard to find and the location tough to access. Both of these missions are common types for the Grande Prairie base. Our transport physician also coordinated five obstetrical requests and/or imminent deliveries and guided rural physicians on transport and patient care options.
Winnipeg flew 11 missions. The crew was sent to a remote access scene call for a camper experiencing a diabetic emergency. Ground EMS would have had to boat across four lakes with difficult portages between each lake, if STARS wasn’t available. Crew also responded to overdoses, an obstetrical emergency, an unresponsive seizure patient, a choking incident, a serious chainsaw accident and a time-dependent cardiac emergency.
Regina flew seven missions. Crew responded to a drowning where they met up with EMS, fire, water rescue, park staff and RCMP at a highly populated scene. Other missions include a grain truck rollover and a quad incident.
Saskatoon flew eight missions. Crew was involved in a number of tough calls, including a male suffering stab wounds and another involving a quad crash. They also had long-distance transports, (including flights to North Battleford and Meadow Lake) which require significant coordination. Our transport physician took phone consults from basic life support providers in northern Saskatchewan, guiding the EMS crew on patient care within their scope of practice, setting up orders for an advanced life support crew to intercept and provide treatment while the helicopter was en route to fast-track the patient into the emergency room.
It takes a strong team to provide world-class critical care and transport. From the transport and online medical care physicians who took multiple calls throughout the weekend, to our pilots who landed in difficult spots and handled multiple pre-alerts while working out turnaround times, fuel loads, weights, balances and the logistics of coordinating with calls that kept changing locations, to our air medical crew who witnessed tragic cases and trauma, and our engineers who kept us flying and the crew members behind the scenes, it was a busy few days.
Thanks to you, STARS was there for these patients.
Throughout the weekend, our Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) program was activated to ensure our team was well-supported given the tragic nature of some of the missions. To learn more about our support program visit starshorizons.ca/who-helps-the-helpers/ .