Mike Tillack, the first trauma patient transported on the new Augusta Grand helicopter, speaks at the Intermountain Medical Center on Wednesday, June 20, 2012. The helicopters have a top speed of 193 mph.
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By dana fergusonThe Salt Lake Tribune
After a bullet ricocheted off a steel target and lodged itself into his skull, Mike Tillack rushed to Sanpete Valley Hospital in Mount Pleasant. Doctors there determined Tillack needed to be transported to a bigger hospital. The ambulance ride would take nearly two hours in traffic; Tillack arrived via Life Flight helicopter in 27 minutes.
Fortunately for Tillack, IMC acquired three new Augusta Grand helicopters this spring, one of which raced him to Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in Provo before the bullet fragments pushing against his brain created any irreparable damage.
The Augusta Grands can reach speeds of up to 190 mph in the Intermountain region. They can travel even faster at lower altitudes.
"The [emergency medical responders] were surprised at how quickly we showed up to the scene because [the helicopter crew] responded so quickly," said Jerry Morrison, Life Flight executive director.
The helicopters feature additional safety technology, including a complete digital cockpit display, twin-engine power, retractable landing gear, a collision avoidance system and "Highway in the Sky" technology that aids pilot navigation.
Tillack, the first patient to ride one of Intermountain Healthcare’s newest copters, carries the bullet fragment the crew extracted from his skull to remember just how close he came to death two weeks ago.
At a media event Wednesday, IMC nurse practitioner Bill Duehlmeier explained what physicians call the "golden hour." The first 60 minutes spent dealing with a trauma are key in saving a patient’s life.
"Speed matters. Seconds count," Duehlmeier said. "That first 60 minutes are critical."
About a dozen patients have been transported in two of the new helicopters since Tillack’s journey June 4, Life Flight spokesman K.D. Simpson said.
The third helicopter has been in use for nearly a year in St. George and already has racked up 300 medical runs.
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