Literally translated, hypoxia means diminished availability of oxygen to the body, something that is quite common in medical air transport scenarios. However, a pre-existing condition that already has made the patient struggle for oxygen can further exacerbate while on the flight. Here, we discuss the reasons and also the different types of hypoxia. The intent is to create a quick reference for medical air transport personnel.
Why Worry About Hypoxia Onboard a Medical Air Transport Vehicle
The biggest risk of hypoxia is when the medical air transport flies over 12,000 square feet above the sea level in an unpressurized air craft. It must be noted that medical flights are pressurized at high altitudes. However, if not, and if no supplemental oxygen is available immediately, it can lead to hypoxia. This kind of hypoxia usually affects the lungs as is caused by partial pressure reduction of O2.
Histotoxic Hypoxia Could be a Danger
Histotoxic hypoxia is diminished ability to filter oxygen owing to narcotic or any other toxic substance. The patient loses the ability to get adequate oxygen. In situations like these, the medical air transport crew must take special care to avoid exacerbating the situation. The combination of histotoxic hypoxia and lack of oxygen pressure due to altitude can prove to be a deadly situation.
Understanding Stagnant Hypoxia
This is another form of hypoxia and is caused by exertion of positive G force in the Z axis. Other causes are heart failures and shock. All these interfere with the blood circulation for the worse and deprive the human body of adequate oxygen. However, medical air transport services always carry oxygen onboard and these conditions are easily taken care of.
Hypemic Hypoxia is Another Cause
This type of hypoxia is caused by health conditions that affect the oxygen levels in the blood. Prime examples for this are anemia and carbon monoxide positioning, both of which affect blood oxygen levels.
Not all medical travels warrant a medical flight. When time is in your hand but the treatment for the ailment demands that you travel long distances, medical flight stretchers can be quite useful and economical. The cost of this service would be a fraction of what an air ambulance would cost you. However, there are certain points that one must keep in mind before booking a medical stretcher and we discuss those in some detail here.
How Isolated is the Patient in the Medical Flight Stretcher?
Medical stretchers naturally occupy more space than a normal seat would. Plus there might be the need of space for some basic medical equipment. All this space translates into higher cost. The agency you have hired might cut corners by trying to make do with minimum space. It is wise to clarify this beforehand. Isolation from the rest of the fight is extremely necessary.
Does the Air Ambulance Company take Care of the Logistics?
You do not want to risk taking the patient in your car to the airport. It is always wise to have an ambulance for this purpose. Does the agency take care of this? Also, the on-boarding and off-boarding of the patient must be a quick process. The agency needs to anticipate all possible hurdles to this and take care of it well in advance.
Booking the Hospital Bed on Arrival in Advance
You do not want to run around to book a bed in the hospital of your desire. While you standby the loved one with health issues, the agency must take care of booking the hospital bed in advance. It is vital that you ask about this beforehand and take confirmation of the booking. Of course, the ambulance too must be ready in the airport upon arrival to save time and get through the process quickly.
Lastly, one must not hesitate to clarify any doubts that they may have, with the coordinator.
We have mentioned in our guides earlier that the best thing to do is leave patient care to the paramedics or emergency medical professionals before the air ambulance arrives. However, there can be times when such help is not available on time. It is in instances like these that the knowledge of some basic facts and maneuvers come handy. We discuss such minimum interventions below.
Pre Air Ambulance Arrival First Aid starts with Calling 911
It is only prudent to first seek professional help and then proceed to offer help. Most times, our foremost instinct is to jump into helping the victim physically, but in the process that precious and live-saving call to 911 emergency services might be delayed significantly. If you strongly feel the need to intervene directly, ensure that you have someone nearby call 911 immediately. Your presence of mind in this matter is vital.
After You Call the Emergency Number
What you do after the emergency call, is entirely situational. Let’s explore some scenarios here:
- Commence cardiopulmonary resuscitation or CPR if you see that the patient is not breathing.
- If the patient is bleeding profusely, apply pressure to stop it. You can prepare a tourniquet by tying a rope to restrict the flow of blood towards the wound.
- If the patient has any amount of food, vomit or blood in the mouth, place the patient on his side with his arm or a pillow-like material under the head.
- If you see that the victim is unconscious while lying face down, turn him over so that he rests on his back.
If the victim is conscious, calm him down by reassuring that help is on the way. Remember, your reassurance to the patient is vital to eliminate anxiety. Bring in some positivity into the situation. Even simply holding the patient’s hand would suffice.
There’s no denying that an air medical transport pilot’s job pays well and is also quite exciting. Responding to emergencies and being amidst action all the time is definitely thrilling, but how does one get there? That’s what we explain here.
An Air Medical Transport Pilot Must Hold a Degree
It’s not necessary that you are an aeronautical engineer. Choose among subjects such as English, physics or mathematics. Holding at least a 2-year degree is mandatory, although it is preferred that you hold a 4-year degree.
Check Whether You Physically Qualify to Fly an Air Medical Transport Vehicle
Simply visit the Federal Aviation Administration website and look for an Aviation Medical Examiner close to the place that you stay. You will be given a medical test by this examiner and if you pass, you will be given a certificate stating the same. At least a class 2 certificate must be obtained as it is mandatory for commercial flying.
Choose the Right Flight School
It is essential that you enrol in a flight school that is recognized by the Federal Aviation Administration. Look for the various accreditations that the school has. Keep in mind that the trainer too must be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration. During the course, you must gain enough instrument flying experience. Air medical transport pilots often have to fly in adverse weather conditions where visibility is poor. This is when flying with the aid of instruments comes handy. It is a mandatory skill for air medical transport pilots.
Garner Enough Flying Hours
Air ambulance pilots are expected to have a good amount of experience under their belt; however, paying for flight hours can be quite expensive. An easy way out is becoming an instructor. This will give you enough hours so that you can comfortably apply for the job.
You cannot deny the fact that a medical flight landing near your home or workplace can generate some excitement. Naturally, the inquisitive you would want to know what is happening. We all know that medical flights can perform tracheotomy to minor amputations on the spot. As a responsible person, you might want to help the injured or even the crew. As such noble thoughts run through your mind, you might not realize that you are putting yourself at risk. You might wonder how that is possible. This risk is precisely what we discuss here.
Help the Medical Flight by Helping Yourself
It takes no rocket science to understand that a medical flight or any helicopter, for that matter, needs enough space to land. In your enthusiasm, do not block the landing space. Better still, ask the fellow onlookers to make way for the medical flight to land.
Medical flights exert quite some down-thrust which can simply throw around kids, small pets, and loosely held objects. Stay away from such objects or secure them, while also holding your pets and kids so that they are safe.
Protecting your eyes from the dust that might be roused by the medical flight is important. You do not want to end up being a medical emergency yourself and burden the air ambulance crew.
Offering Personal Help is a Strict No
It is highly unlikely that bystanders are asked for help during medical flight emergencies. Do not approach the crew with an offer to help. You might simply be obstructing their work. Think of it; the crew is usually comprised of experienced paramedics, nurses, doctors and pilots who know their job well. In the event that your help is required, rest assured, they will ask for it. Unless that happens, the best thing that you can do is keep yourself out of harm’s way.
Air ambulance companies across the United States are investing thousands and sometimes millions of dollars on night vision goggles. While a part of this move is a regulatory requirement, they certainly make air ambulance evacuations much safer. They are especially helpful for helicopters that land in rather precarious landing pads. It is believed that air ambulance helicopters answer about 2,000 calls for patient transfers each year, and at least 10 percent of these are emergency calls. The night vision goggles enable the air ambulance service providers to offer wider services.
Not All Emergency Calls are Taken up by Air Ambulance Helicopters
Emergencies, of course, can occur at any time of the day or night; however, air ambulance choppers cannot respond to all of those, owing to pilot and crew safety. The issue of safety crops up mainly during the nights due to poor visibility. Night goggles can make the skies safer for the medical flight crew. One direct consequence of this would be that medical flights would be able to respond to more emergencies during the night. It also becomes easier to spot the victims who are stranded in thinly populated, treacherous areas without any immediate help.
The Connection between Air Ambulance Cost and Night Vision Goggles
A night vision goggle typically costs about 12,000 dollars. When an air ambulance is not in use, it still incurs maintenance charges, which ultimately is borne by the patients who avail the services. Now, think of a scenario where the air ambulance is employed more. This means that the maintenance charge would be divided among more people, making each flight cheaper. The people of United States are currently reeling under high air ambulance costs and a lot is being spoken about it. Considering that the night vision goggles only cost about 12,000 dollars, this could be a welcome addition.
Injuries can occur without prior warning, anytime, anywhere. It is a real possibility that you may one day find yourself in a situation where you need to care for a critically injured person until a medical flight arrives. Know that you can make a difference and there is a lot you can do to help the injured. However, first things first; call the 911 before you even attempt anything. Faster the paramedics reach the better. If the accident site is in the middle of nowhere, make that know clearly to the responder. There is a good possibility that the paramedics themselves will arrive in a medical flight for quick evacuation.
Your Role in the Meantime
The fastest that a paramedic or emergency services can arrive is 6 to 9 minutes. While these initial minutes may sound like a small time, they can prove to be the difference between life and death. The first thing to check is whether the patient is breathing normally and whether there is a wound that is letting blood out rapidly. First clamp the blood using a piece of cloth as a tourniquet. Position the patient such that the blood flow is against gravity. Administer CPR if necessary. Observe yourself; feeling stressed and nauseous in such situations is normal. Try and clear your thoughts and focus on the critical victim.
Stay Safe till the Medical Flight or Other Form of Help Arrives
Bravado is bad, especially if you are stuck with the victim in a tough terrain. The best you can do is tell the 911 responder exactly what has happened and answer the questions clearly. Apart from that ensuring that the patient is conscious by talking to them, controlling bleeding, positioning the patient right and administering CPR if necessary is the only thing that you can do. Remember, there are laws to protect you like the Good Samaritan Act that keeps you shielded from any legal liabilities in situations like these, so never shy away from helping.
Booking a medical flight can seem like a daunting task, especially in light of the fact that you would be booking an entire airplane for yourself. However, it is entirely different from booking a charter plane. In most cases, all you need to do is make a call to set things up. Here, we bring you a rough step-wise guide. Although the process may vary slightly depending on the medical flight provider, it would broadly remain the same.
Begin with a Simple Call to the Medical Flight Provider
Better still, you can simply fill an online form requesting the provider to contact you. Remember, at this stage, you are merely asking for price quotes and evaluating the options before you. Do not commit to booking a medical flight at this point. Also, it is recommended that you call multiple medical flight providers before zeroing on one. Expect questions like your current location, destination, and the diagnosis of the patient. Most providers will get back to you within 30 minutes and give you a price quote.
Ask What the Cost Covers
Ideally, the costs should include ground transport from and to the hospital and airport, medical crew and aircraft charges, equipment fee, landing fee, and a few other miscellaneous fees that should not amount to a lot. If any of these are left out, proactively ask about them so that you get a clear idea of what you are getting into.
Confirmation and the Ensuing Process
Once you confirm that you want to take the medical flight services from a particular provider, you will be asked for personal details like name, date of birth, weight, etc. You will also be asked about the desired time and date of transportation. You will have to give your passport details if you are flying international. You will have to specify whether a person would be accompanying you and also the amount of luggage that you would be carrying.
Saying that air ambulance cost is something that most people in the United States dread is stating the obvious. However, Otero County is leading by an example to overcome this problem. This county of New Mexico has found a middle path that is beneficial to everyone involved. The Otero County Commissioners have got into an understanding with Air Methods, which is among the largest air ambulance service providers in the country. The air ambulance provider owns Native Air which services the local population.
Air Ambulance Cost could be as Low as $2.5 a Year
Well, the figure is a best- case scenario where every Otero resident opts to become a member of the annual plan. There are about 65,000 people in the county and all it takes is $2.5 per annum to cover the costs of the air ambulance. However, this is only a possibility on books. The affordably has still not been dented. Currently, the membership is being offered to individuals at a very reasonable cost of $45 and $75 for families. The families must already have a primary health insurance to avail the membership.
It is Hoped that Over a Thousand People will Embrace the Air Ambulance Plan
The membership is slated to get cheaper as more and more people opt for the air ambulance subscription. However, there are certain cons. If the patients end up availing an air ambulance that does not belong to Air Methods, they’ll invariably end up paying huge amounts. Also, people may argue that a plan like this may create a monopoly of sorts which goes against the very basic principles of a capitalistic economy. However, monopoly or not, the plan is affording peace of mind to several residents of Otero County. People also do not have to depend on the county to avail this membership.
A medical flight becomes a necessity when travelling long distances on commercial flights is impossible, owing to the level of care that the patient’s health demands. On the brighter side, it gives the family members enough time to prepare for one. There are several things that the medical flight service provider will help the family and the patient with. However, being knowledgeable about certain aspects of the travel makes it easier for the family. The family must be prepared with the history and physical as well as the discharge summary of the patient, along with copies of insurance cards. Government issued identification is also necessary.
Limitations while Availing a Medical Flight Service
The patient’s family must understand that the medical flight is designed for the patient and carries a huge amount of medical equipment. Unlike, a commercial flight, it is not exactly designed for normal commuters. So, the family members must consult with the medical flight provider as to the maximum luggage that can be carried. It is usually about a 21-inch roller bag that is allowed. Some air ambulances do not allow for family members to accompany the patient in the medical flight; however, most of them accommodate at least one family member. It all depends on the space available and the size of the air ambulance. A quick check with the flight coordinator is always a wise move.
Availing International Air Ambulance Services
It is a given that the family must ensure that the patient’s passport, visa, travel documents and insurance are in place. It is advisable to also carry electronic copies of all the documents for easy retrieval and backup. A detailed discussion regarding the receiving hospital and the logistics between the airport and the hospital is advised. While experienced medical flight coordinators cover such things, there is no harm in knowing the details.