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The Only Air Ambulance to Transport a 500-Pound Patient on ECMO!

by admin on November 6, 2013

On the evening of Thursday, October 31 of this year, the phone rang at the 24/7 dispatch center of Air Ambulance 1 with a challenging request. At the other end of the line was an insurance assistance company representative seeking life-saving care for one of their members. They needed an air ambulance service that could transfer a 500-pound patient. On multiple IV’s. With a monitor and extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO).
When we say “challenging,” you have to picture the difficulties this patient was enduring. The patient visited the ER with respiratory distress accompanied by strong chest pain. Once stabilized, the doctors naturally wished to perform different diagnostic examinations such as MRI and x-ray. The problem was that none of the available diagnostic equipment could accommodate the dimensions of a patient who weighed 500 pounds. Now let’s try flying this patient. When it comes to medical transport, the specific needs of this kind of patient determine a few specifications.

1. The aircraft stretcher must be able to carry this patient. Most air ambulance stretchers can support no more than 350 pounds.
2. The aircraft doors must be able to accommodate the 41-inch shoulder width of the patient. Most aircraft doors range from 24-36 inches.
3. Patient weight necessitated the presence of eight adults to lift the patient from bed to stretcher and then into the aircraft.
4. ECMO – Extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation is a technique of providing both cardiac and respiratory support oxygen to patients whose heart and lungs are so severely damaged that they no longer function properly. The equipment needed for this procedure is very rare and very hard to find on air ambulance transport. Air Ambulance 1 was one of dozens of companies which the insurance carrier contemplated hiring for this challenging transport. One service accepted the fight request, but when their medical team arrived at the patient’s bedside, they declined the transport and went returned to their base!

Our management team met and discussed all options for this transport. We considered everything from using our own equipment to taking advantage of the equipment from one of our worldwide alliance members. The United States features over 50 fully-equipped medical aircrafts, none of which could transport this obese patient. Furthermore, the insurance company, the patient’s family, and the sending facility reached out to over 30 medical transport companies, all of which rejected this case!.
Air Ambulance 1 was the only company in the United States that spent over 72 hours in researching every possible option to accommodate this critical care transport. While at some points this mission seemed impossible, the team did not give up. We worked hard to achieve a safe and efficient solution.
With unmatched dedication and professionalism, the extraordinary team of Air Ambulance 1 found a solution. A combination of the right aircraft, a bariatric stretcher, a nurse, and respiratory specialist as well as a perfusionist and 8 paramedics made this mission successful.
On Saturday, November 2, the patient was safely airlifted from the Bahamas to the final destination in Florida. The patient’s family was extremely grateful. If not for the hard work of the Air Ambulance 1 team, their loved one would have been stuck in the Bahamas with zero chance of survival.
If we could use a situation to summarize just how unique we are as a company, this would be it. This case underscores our motto: saving time, saving lives.



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    We Guarantee that when choosing Air Ambulance 1, your loved ones shall be treated with professional and compassionate care. We consider every patient as family, we strive to perfection and continuously monitoring our operations. When choosing A provider, Remember that Air Ambulance 1’s management team has over 200,000 successful patient transfers in the past 15 years.


    Air Ambulance 1 – CEO