ASM: Avera Careflight in Pierre takes off

PIERRE, S.D. (KSFY) - Every second counts in a medical emergency, for some, just a few minutes can mean the difference between life or death.

Avera St. Mary's in Pierre just unveiled a new service to help get patients to hospitals faster. The new Pierre Avera Careflight Program is already saving lives.

"I was in serious condition; I will just say that," Todd Johnson, patient, said. "And they helped out immensely. The last year and a half in July I started riding bike a lot, and I rode pretty much all summer, and I ride the bike paths throughout Pierre.”

But one day this summer, one of those bike rides took a drastic turn.

“What I did, I chose to ride my bike through the gulch, which is behind the capitol," Johnson said. "And somewhere along the way on the back hillside, I lost control, at which time I crashed my bike.”

"Todd was a patient that was a prime example of where time matters in a trauma center and being in Sioux Falls," Anna Vanden Bosch, Avera Clinical Care Manger, said. "So, he, unfortunately, experienced a traumatic event on his bicycle and was identified that he had a brain bleed and with no Neuro-surgery facilities here getting those patients and getting them stabilized from St. Mary's to McKennan is crucial.”

In situations like Todd's, time is of the essence. That's when Avera's Careflight in Pierre took off, for one of its first flights, to save his life.

“Being able to have a fixed-wing right here that we can get off like say in 15 minutes with a patient after they pick them up or we go to a different location," Vanden Bosch said. "It's huge and just the timepiece that patients need and decreasing that out of hospital time."

That quick response along with the newly formed Avera Careflight team in Pierre, Todd is happy to say he's recovering today.

“It was explained that 60% of people that have injuries, brain injuries that are consistent with mine are terminal, they don't make it," Johnson said. "And so, the fact that I was able to be transported to Sioux Falls was extremely important for my case. I am trying to work back into my full-time position, and the doctors here have let me start doing some part-time stuff that will help with some of the concerns with that my brain injury causes and everything's been going really well."

Inside the brand new hanger, you'll find the P-T 12 fixed-winged airplane. Vanden Bosch says it's faster and can travel more miles than a helicopter.

“A fixed-wing aircraft that we utilize specifically for this region that is a really huge asset for a lot of different weather conditions and runways and just gets to our tertiary care center via McKennan quicker than, say a helicopter would," she said.

Todd is thankful for those Careflight pilots, those "angels with wings," that helped him that day.

"I think we take for granted life," he said. "I think our day-to-day, you know, I thought some things were serious that, in the end, aren't that serious and after having an accident as serious as mine I am going to look at things a little bit differently."

Since opening in the beginning of November Avera Careflight in Pierre has served more than 30 patients.

For more information, you can visit avera.org.