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Advanced medical helicopter takes flight in Decorah

DECORAH, Iowa (KWWL) — In any medical emergency, time is of the essence; first responders working quickly to get you the help you need, often times for those major emergencies you’ll get airlifted to the nearest, major hospital. For those with Gundersen Health System, they’ve got a new ride.

“We cruise at about 140 -150 mph,” said pilot Kevin Flynn, who flies the EC145 helicopter that commands the skies above northeast Iowa while saving lives. Flynn says speed is in their nature.

“We don’t have to follow roads, we don’t have to do that kind of stuff. So where we save the most time is we can go straight,” said Flynn.

The aircraft is filled with various medical equipment

“We consider it like a mini ICU,” said GundersenAir Chief Flight Nurse Terri Wenthold “We have ventilators, IV infusion pumps, cardiac monitors.”

Opening the back of the aircraft, Wenthold explained the ease in which they can load patients through the rear as well as the challenges they face in the air.

“CPR is always a challenge in the air medical environment,” said Wenthold

He added that communication can also be challenging.

“When we’re up in the air, it’s a noisy environment, we’re wearing headsets. We’re kinda at the mercy of radio transmission and communications on the ground,” said Wenthold.

For Flynt, there’s help in the form of a state of the art auto-pilot.

“If I need to talk on the radio, or talk with these guys amount something, or look at a chart or something, it’s just an extra layer of help for me,” said Flynn.

However, this auto-pilot isn’t like what you see in the movies.

“It’ doesn’t actually fly it for me, I still have to do it what to do. I still have to tell it where to go. I have to still monitor it,” said Flynt.

Still, between the medicine and the tech, their limits are few.

“We can do most anything in there that we can do anywhere else,” said Wenthold.

Launching in March, GundersenAir has a crew of 25 critical care nurses and specially-trained flight paramedics as well as eight pilots.

The group will show off the aircraft more at an open house at the new hangar near the Decorah airport, set for sometime this summer.

Kevin Millard

Kevin Millard-Social Media Digital Content Manager for WXOW.

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