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Providing lifesaving medicine in the skies

What It Takes: IU Health's LifeLine
IU Health's LifeLine What It Takes
Posted at 2:36 PM, Oct 20, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-25 14:04:47-04

INDIANAPOLIS IN — When you’re in a crisis, every second counts.

That’s why IU Health’s LifeLine is important to get people to the hospital quickly. WRTV’s Megan Shinn brought us behind the scenes to see if she has what it takes to join the medical professionals, who take to the skies in helicopters.

LifeLine’s response starts when someone reaches out to the organization’s dispatch and requests LifeLine’s helicopter services.

“It really comes down to being able to provide that expedited transport, but we also provide an increased level of care as well,” Base Supervisor and Critical Care Transport Nurse, Mike Boone said.

He explained that the helicopter flies out to where it’s needed, with a nurse and paramedic on board with the pilot. To work for LifeLine you must be a Nurse or Paramedic with three to five years of experience and after eighteen months you must get your Certified Flight Registered Nurse Certification.

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Boone has a role where he helps manage the team, but also spends time as a nurse onboard the LifeLine chopper.

“We’re able to take care of patients in an antonymous environment. We’re able to do procedures that often, as a nurse, I would not be able to do in a hospital, such as incubating someone, putting a tube in their lungs to breath,” Boone said.

It’s an expanded role, that Registered Nurse, Diana Voida said she’s enjoyed for decades.

“It’s like a puzzle, you’re trying to figure out what’s going on with them before you get them to the hospital,” Voida said.

IU Health's LifeLine What It Takes

Before they get the call, the nurses and paramedics come in here, make sure they’re all ready, suit up first and double check their equipment before they head into the chopper.

First, they check their blood supply. “We carry two units of fresh frozen plasma, and two units of blood,” Voida said. “We need to make sure it’s the right temperature, that there’s no expiration, and the expiration date is ok.”

“Then we come over to our narcotic box, and we make sure that our narcotics have a lock on them and the appropriate ‘narcs’ are inside of it,” said Voida.

They’ve got primary and secondary bags and there are bags within bags.

“It’s key that every morning when you come in that you’re checking these bags and what’s inside of the bags to make sure all of your equipment is there,” Voida said. “Small things can be missed, but small things can end up being something very important you need for each and every patient.”

It’s a detail-oriented process, but it pays off when they arrive to a patient’s rescue.

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“We try to keep things as calm as can be, because a lot of times when we land on scenes, they are chaotic and if we act like we’re in a tizzy, they do the same thing. So, it’s kind of like a snowball effect. So, the calmer you can be, the better,” said Voida.

For the youngest patients, Pediatric Neonatal Critical Care Transport Nurse Nicole Anderson focuses on the infants and babies.

They use items like a Neonatal Transport Isolette, or incubator.

“We can put the tiniest little babies in here, up to at least five kilos,” Anderson said. “This part of the box keeps the babies nice and warm, and then we have our ventilator over here that helps with respiratory stuff.”

Shinn went through the process of bag checks and setting up the incubator with Anderson.

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“We have our little straps in here, this is how we keep the babies nice and secure when we are in transport,” said Anderson. She called this piece of equipment “vital”.

To Anderson it’s rewarding to take care of the tiniest patients. “When we show up, families, physicians get a sense of hope and relief that we are there,” Anderson said.

To get in the air, they depend on pilots like David Flippinger. He’s a pilot for Metro Aviation who flies for LifeLine. He said they travel all around and get to where they’re needed fast.

“With three hundred sixty degrees, three hundred sixty options of where we can go,” said Flippinger.

LifeLine is the only helicopter service with IU Health. There are others affiliated with other hospitals. However, LifeLine considers itself the most comprehensive program in the state.

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