Local flavor graces LifeSave Transport at SLN



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Feb 14, 2021
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Change has greeted LifeSave Transport air ambulance service at Salina Regional Airport, with a new owner and aircraft.

The mission to serve around the clock, care for and swiftly fly patients to hospitals, has not diminished, although the pandemic has injected other duties.

LifeSave was purchased this past December by Air Methods, headquartered in Englewood, Colo., with air medical transport bases in most of the United States. The company employs more than 5,000 people.

Locations in Kansas will continue to operate as LifeSave Transport, said Cassie Markley, R.N., the clinical base lead, who manages the service at SLN.

The Salina base has added a new Astar 350 helicopter, equipped for critical care air transport.

The Salina location is staffed by crew members primarily from central and north-central Kansas.

“I’m a local girl, and love being able to serve the people and community where I grew up. We’re very happy with the choice,” said Markley, (her first name pronunciation sounds like Casey). She’s a 1990 graduate of Abilene High School.

The original company was founded by Dr. Martin Sellberg, who hails from the McPherson area.

Two pilots live in Salina, one in Lindsborg, and one in Manhattan. Flight nurses and paramedics are from the Salina and Wichita areas.

“In our line of work, that’s a normal commute,” Markley said. “The pilots share staffing responsibilities and are able to go home many nights.”

The Salina location opened in August 2019 in Hangar 504 just south of the air traffic control tower, at 2013 Kneubuhl Court, complete with living quarters necessary for the 24/7 service.

Crews have been flying up to three times a day, Markley said, and the Salina base logs as many as 20 flights a month.

“Things are really blossoming, and we’re still developing relationships in the area. It’s very positive,” Markley said.

LifeSave / Air Methods just finished a mock drunk driving exercise at Sacred Heart High School, with the Salina Fire Department and several other agencies.

Air Methods offers rotor and fixed wing air ambulance services in more than 45 states, including Hawaii.

Regionally, helicopters and crews are based in Salina, Emporia, Dodge City, and Colby, with fixed wing aircraft in Wichita, Garden City, McCook, Neb., and Austin, Texas.

A 24-hour crew consists of two of the four pilots and medical staff, usually a flight nurse and a paramedic. Occasionally, however, two nurses will go on a mission.

LifeSave regions are typically within a 100-mile radius of the base of operations, but the crews are not solely confined to them. At times, Markley said, Salina flights will venture to other areas, such as when the Emporia base is busy and needs help.

“We do interfacility transfer, hospital to hospital, when someone is sick or hurt or for example, having a heart attack and we need to get them to a cath lab. Maybe we’ll fly from Ellsworth to Salina,” she said. “There are also scene flights, such as for car accidents. We have highways all round us and rural settings. We fly for a lot of outside accidents such as ATV and farm accidents.”

The pandemic has added to the workload, Markley said, especially for fixed wing flights.

“Because of the availability of hospitals, with many of them full, you have to fly further, like to KU Med (University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, Kan.),” she said. “to be able to provide the best possible care for our patients, in the safest manner.”

– Tim Unruh

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