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Lifesaving LifeFlight: Air ambulance locates at Humboldt airport

VANDERBILT LIFEFLIGHT Last Thursday staff from Vanderbilt LifeFlight were at Humboldt Municipal Airport to announce a new air ambulance base will locate at the airport soon. Those celebrating the good news are (from left) Humboldt inspector John Morrison, Humboldt Fire Chief Chester Owens, Air Method’s Liz Reeves, Humboldt Mayor Marvin Sikes and flight crew members from Henry County, flight nurse Wes Faulkner, pilot Rodney Cox and flight paramedic Matt McClure.

A new medical emergency service is coming to Humboldt that will provide the region with quick access to air ambulance.

Vanderbilt LifeFlight will soon be expanding its footprint in West Tennessee by adding an emergency helicopter base at Humboldt Municipal Airport. It will be the second Vanderbilt LifeFlight base in the area, with the other located in Henry County.  The location was selected to strategically service hospital and EMS partners in the area, according to a press release from Vanderbilt.

 Humboldt Mayor Marvin Sikes said the quality and caliber of care offered by Vanderbilt LifeFlight will have a dramatic impact on the area.

“This will impact our city and community in a very positive way,” Mayor Sikes said. “This will speed up transporting patients to a trauma center for our citizens in an emergency situation. Just having a service of Vanderbilt LifeFlight’s caliber will ensure our residents will receive care from a quality organization like Vanderbilt University Medical Center. One of the most positive and beneficial impacts to our city will be not only the service provided, but the visual statement it would make as Vanderbilt enters our city.”

From Humboldt, the helicopter will cover a 120-mile response area and will transport patients who require advanced medical and surgical care from accident scenes. LifeFlight will also perform hospital-to-hospital transports in the region so that patients can be treated at tertiary care centers across West Tennessee, including member hospitals and health systems in the Vanderbilt Health Affiliated Network.

“We are excited to work with our partners at Air Methods Corporation to be able to add this new base to better serve our EMS (Emergency Medical Services) and hospital partners in West Tennessee,” Stephan Russ, M.D. stated in the press release. Russ is the associate professor of Emergency Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) and associate chief of staff for Vanderbilt University Adult Hospital.

The new helicopter base at the Humboldt Municipal Airport represents an investment of more than $10 million in Gibson County. Construction will begin soon and the base is expected to open by the end of the year.

Meadows Building Systems will construct a new 3,000 sq.ft. fully insulated hanger for the chopper and will have a mechanics area. Donnie Meadows, owner, said they will also construct a 1,500 sq.ft. living quarters for the flight crews. He said it will have a “home feel” with three sleeping areas, a full kitchen, office, bathroom and a covered porch.

Liz Reeves, Tennessee director with Air Methods, said there will be 14 crewmembers including flight nurses, flight paramedics and pilots working at the Humboldt location. Crews will rotate on 24-hour shifts.

Mayor Sikes said the project could not have happened without the eager assistance of Humboldt Utilities to install water, sewer, gas and electric services preparing for the new construction.

The aircraft that will service the area is a twin engine Airbus Helicopter H-135 that can fly at speeds faster than 150 mph. Additionally, it is one of the few aircraft in the area that provides flight nurses 360-degree access to the patient, and the ability to fly under instrument flight rules (IFR). The aircraft is also equipped with air conditioning, state-of-the-art navigation, a communications and avionics package that includes night vision goggles, and a terrain avoidance warning system.

Mayor Sikes said the project offers economic benefits to the local community as well, and that the new facility at Humboldt Municipal Airport would continue to boost redevelopment efforts, which the city has been working on over the last two years.

Russ echoed his comments, and said Vanderbilt would provide a new tool for emergency responders.

“We look forward to continuing Vanderbilt LifeFlight’s commitment to excellence in education, patient care and patient safety with our hospital, EMS and 911 colleagues throughout the West Tennessee region,” Russ stated in the press release. “For more than 34 years Vanderbilt LifeFlight has been delivering industry-leading medical care as a community asset, and we trust that our expansion into Humboldt will strengthen the access, reach and viability of the program for many more years to come.”

“The Humboldt airport has started the turn for a new direction,” Sikes said. “We are upgrading the look of the airport and we are putting out the word that we are open for business. It’s a new day here at the Humboldt airport.”

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