Pre-med and pre-engineering majors at the Academy for the Arts, Science and Technology learned about flight medicine from the experts Thursday when a medevac helicopter crew from McLeod Health touched down near the school and opened its doors for exploration.
The unit, based at Marion City Airport, gives emergency medical treatment and transport, serving the Grand Strand and Pee Dee areas, and occasionally spots in North Carolina. Responders treat trauma patients in the helicopter’s confined space, using much of the same medical equipment that can be found in a hospital emergency room.
“We’re a flying [intensive care unit],” said flight paramedic JoJo Turbeville. “There’s more to it than just a shiny helicopter coming out of the sky.”
The medical crew – a pilot, flight paramedic and flight nurse – told students about their work experience and qualifications, and answered questions as students viewed the helicopter from inside and out. The opportunity was the unique type of learning experience that AAST teachers are trying to bring to students this year.
“As [a registered nurse], I’ve never even seen the inside of a medevac helicopter,” said Jennifer Rabon, one of the school’s pre-med teachers. “People think it’s a flying ambulance, but it’s so much more than that. We’re trying to give the students this kind of exposure to different medical careers so they know there is a wide variety of areas to work in.”
Turbeville said flight medicine isn’t for novices. Pilots have to be experienced, nurses need to have backgrounds in critical care, and paramedics must be field-qualified with multiple advanced certifications. He said the unit flies 150 to 160 mph and can make what may be a 40- or 45-minute ground trip in 10 to 15 minutes by air.
“When someone is bleeding to death, that makes a huge difference,” he said.
Pre-engineering senior Bridgette Harper, 17, listened by the helicopter as a nurse described some of the equipment she uses and said the event helped her understand how to get prepared for the future.
“I’m thinking about biomedical or chemical engineering,” said Harper, who wants to attend college at either Clemson or Duke. “I could end up making plastic limbs or the material this helicopter is built with – make it sturdier.”
On the other side of the aircraft, flight paramedic Brian McCoy fielded questions about problems in flight, assuring students that the helicopter has “double everything,” so if something fails, there’s always a backup. Students then lined up for a chance to sit in the helicopter and get a feel for the close quarters.
Waiting her turn, Kellie Wilson, 17, a senior pre-med student, said she plans to attend the University of South Carolina-Aiken. She said she eventually wants to be an obstetrician because she wants to work with babies, and she knows for sure flight medicine just isn’t her thing.
“I’m not flying in an airplane,” Wilson said. “I’m scared of heights.”
Contact VICKI GROOMS at 443-2401 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_VickiGrooms.