Ambulance chasers won't have to go far to see the full splendor of the emergency transport fleet ShandsCair Saturday.
The fleet -- four ambulances, a medical helicopter, two non-emergency vans, and a fixed-wing aircraft -- will be on stationary display in an open house celebrating the 30th anniversary of when the ambulance service first went aloft.
The open house will be from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday at the ShandsCair hangar at 1601 SW Shealy Drive in Gainesville. Past and present members of the ShandsCair team will give tours of the hangar.
Since the first helicopter from Shands took off to West Palm Beach in December 1981, more than 44,700 patients have been transported to critical care units through ShandsCair, which offers a moving experience by ground, helicopter or fixed-wing aircraft for distances greater than 215 miles.
In the 30 years since that first flight, ShandsCair has grown into a 54-person staff that serves 13 counties that don't have their own trauma units -- Marion, Levy, Dixie, Putnam, Bradford, Union, Gilchrist, Columbia, Hamilton, Suwannee, Taylor, Lafayette and Madison counties.
As the years have gone on, the helicopter transport has been developed from a focus on interfacility rides to transport from the scene of an accident. Last year, the helicopter lifted 350 patients from the scene of an accident -- 57 percent of the helicopter flights, according to Shands statistics.
Dr. Frederick Moore, chief of Acute Care Surgery at Shands, said that air transport by helicopter is the best hope for citizens in outlying areas to survive severe bleeding or head injury.
“With TBI (traumatic brain injury), if you get here quickly, we can CT scan you and within 20 minutes take you into the operating room” to relieve the potentially fatal pressure building from the injury, he said.