AU Health AirCare taking flight this summer

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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) — Soon, the sky above Augusta University Health the Children’s Hospital of Georgia (CHOG) will be busy. In partnership with Metro Aviation, the hospital system is launching AU Health AirCare this summer to transport critically-ill patients.

“As the only level-one trauma center and the only pediatric trauma center in the region, it’s important that we’re able to extend care out to other reaches of the area, particularly in parts of the state that do not have  good pediatric care,” Dr. Phillip Coule, AU Health’s Chief Medical Officer, says.

Coule tells NewsChannel 6 the helicopter “will essentially be like a flying ICU unit or flying emergency department” where crews can “do advanced treatments, like transporting blood and doing procedures.”

AU Health has not had a helicopter transport service in nearly two years. It has used third-party companies in times of emergencies. The new program will be staffed completely with AU and CHOG teams trained specifically to care for patients in the sky.

“Air medical flight crews are really the top tier of pre-hospital care because it requires just  an incredible level of decision making, on the spot care rendered in a very difficult environment.”

Evonne Rodgers knows what it is like like to treat patients in this environment. She is a neonatal ecmo nurse who has been part of CHOG’s transport team for three years.

“It is not an easy thing to take a baby away from its mama,” she explains. “It’s heartbreaking for me, but I do appreciate and am grateful for the trust they put in us to care and transport their babies sometimes hours away.”

No day is the same for Rodgers and her team. Their goal is to be out of the hospital within 30 minutes of receiving a call that a child needs their care. It is a high-pressure and stressful job, but she says it is worth it.

“Being able to bring a patient in and then see them progress and do better, and knowing you had a vital step in that, is really great.”

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