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MercyOne Air Med Marks 35 Years of Lifesaving Transport

Nov 22, 2021 09:52AM ● By Med Magazine

This month marks 35 years since MercyOne Air Med launched a new chapter in trauma and emergency care, first lifting off from Des Moines in  November 1986. Using the innovation of rapid transport, the first air mission required  emergency heart care, saving a Granger man’s life. 

The continued need for trauma and emergency transport led to integrating with excellent  helicopter programs developed at MercyOne North Iowa Medical Center in Mason City and  MercyOne Siouxland Medical Center in Sioux City. Cruising at 170 mph, today five helicopters fly MercyOne patients throughout Iowa transporting nearly 1,500 patients each year. 

“The speed of the helicopter has helped improve time to treatment for many traumas and  emergencies,” said MercyOne Air Med Director Dan Johnson. “We are continually reviewing our  care protocols with regional flight teams and their physician medical directors. Together, we  standardize our care to make it the safest and best possible.” 

Heart care has evolved so patients can be flown and have blocked arteries opened in less than  90 minutes. A pediatric or neonatal transport team can fly to critical access or system hospitals  to transport critically ill children and premature infants for critical care services at MercyOne  Children’s Hospital.  

Recently, the flight team developed a new process during the COVID-19 pandemic to transport  patients needing external life support to breathe. The care known as ECMO involves a  surgically-attached device that removes and oxygenates a patient’s blood. A patient can now be  transported while receiving ECMO care. 

MercyOne Air Med has also played a role in blending rapid transport care with aviation  technology. MercyOne Air Med’s relationship with helicopter provider Air Methods and  manufacturer Bell Helicopter led to the Des Moines flight team working with Bell to design the  cabin of its new Bell 429 for patient care. The first 429 medical helicopter in the world went into  service in Des Moines. 

Today, the passion and delivery of advanced compassionate and personalized care remains the  focus of the flight team, providing critical care in critical moments.