Shands Jacksonville is beefing up its trauma care with a brand new Trauma One helicopter and with units now stationed in St. Augustine, Yulee, and Lake City, it creates a triangle of care, and that means more available units that can cover more area more quickly and hopefully save more lives. I went for a ride around the city in one of the helicopters to see what it was like. The pilots are professionals, most if not all ex-military. The chopper steers like a dream, and the flight was incredibly smooth.
I was lucky enough to be sitting upright in my seat looking out at the beautiful skyline most who ride in that helicopter are unfortunately strapped to a stretcher being cared for. But the new choppers mean faster travel times.
"By us being in St. Augustine, we're cutting 20 minutes off of that time," says John Barber, pilot of the St. Augustine-based Trauma One helicopter.
Barber says with Orange Park Medical Center’s trauma ward closed, he’s now taking patients to Shands instead. Trauma One travels at about 150 mph. An ambulance goes maybe 65-70 mph assuming there's no traffic. The differencce is like night and day when it comes to saving people's lives, says Wayne Marshall, Shands' director of emergency and trauma. And the inscription on the side of the chopper tells you all you need to know about the crews' motto: "Every second counts."
"Taking a helicopter versus taking an ambulance definitely will make them get here faster.
"This new model that we are collaborating with will enable us to extend our safety net literally to 44 counties," said Dr. Joseph Tepas, whose initials are inscribed on the tail of one of the choppers. "It is the seconds and the minutes that count."
Tepas has been with Shands since the mid 80s and he says the mission expansion reiterates Shands’ commitment to providing the best care to Northeast Florida.