Every day, we hear from patients we’ve carried. Some want to visit the base and peek at the helicopter. Others plan to drop off a note or donation. The majority have their hearts set on meeting the men and women who cared for them on their darkest day. They want to shake hands, give a hug and say thank you.

What many people don’t realize is that those visits, notes, hugs and handshakes mean as much to the paramedics, nurses, doctors, pilots and rest of the staff as they do for the patient.

Flight nurse Pat Jeffrey – who has been with STARS since the early days – finds inspiration in every returning visitor.

“When a patient I have cared for drops by and smiles, it is truly a heartfelt moment,” she said. “No matter how serious their injury or illness, they are so happy and thankful to be alive. As a critical care nurse, I know the road to recovery is often a long and painful one; filled with struggle, setbacks and determination. The strength and resolve these former patients and their families show is unbelievable.”

STARS’ very first patient was Kelly Hulstein, who was only hours old when she was flown from Lethbridge to Calgary. She and her twin brother were born more than two months prematurely and faced an uncertain future. While Travis was flown by fixed-wing from Medicine Hat, Kelly was picked up by STARS and taken to Foothills Hospital.

When that tiny baby was flown on Dec. 1, 1985, STARS was in its infancy, too. The pilots were volunteers, the air medical crew just new to aviation and donors were few and far between.

Both Hulstein and STARS had a rocky start. Both found a way to persevere.

Three decades later, STARS has carried out more than 30,000 missions. For us, however, it’s not just about 30,000 missions. It’s
about 30,000 families, 30,000 communities or 30,000 workplaces and schools. It’s incredible how having the privilege of caring for one individual can touch so many.

“My family has been grateful to STARS for 30 years,” said Hulstein, who is a partner at a Lethbridge accounting firm. “We all know I couldn’t have celebrated my 30th birthday if STARS didn’t pick me up that day.”

Pictured alongside Hulstein above are other special patients who were given a second chance. These youngsters have all thanked STARS for the chance to grow up, live large and give back.