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'AirCare' Celebrates 35 Years

IOWA CITY, IA (CBS 2/FOX 28) -- In life-threatening situations, seconds count. For 35 years now, Eastern Iowa first responders have had an option that, in some cases, likely made the difference between life and death.

That option is the AirCare, run by the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, and saving lives since April 1st, 1979. It celebrated its 35th anniversary Tuesday.

It was actually one of the first 15 programs that was an air medical transport program, and the first in the state of Iowa, says Azeem Ahmed with the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

AirCare personnel say every day keeps them on their toes, meaning their job is never boring.

You never know what you're gonna get as far as the next call, says flight paramedic Casey Thompson.

Patients having heart attacks, having strokes, babies that are born that require higher level neonatal intensive care, Ahmed says.

In the last three decades, they've covered a lot of ground or should we say air. Over the past 35 years 25,000 patients have flown in their helicopters, flying 3 1/2 million miles.

You could argue the stats for flight nurse Pat Doser are equally as impressive. In 23 years with AirCare, he's seen 2,500 patients come and go. That's one out of every 10.

I thank my lucky stars that I'm able to do this, and I hope I can do it for another 23 years, he says.

Cutting through the air at 130 miles per hour, both speed and efficiency are the keys to his job. So is safety, which as incidents nationwide show, isn't guaranteed in a chopper.

Although it never leaves the back of my mind, it's never the first thought when I jump in a helicopter, Doser says.

AirCare credits good safety practices as the reason why they've never had a mishap.

 I am very confident in the culture this program has developed, Doser says.

The yearly budget for air care is $4.6 million dollars. AirCare is the only air medical service in Iowa accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems.
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