LifeFlight celebrates 15 years with Midcoast galaRaises money for new aircraft, recounts stories of survival
Owls Head — LifeFlight of Maine celebrated its first 15 years of service, providing helicopter transport and critical care to patients throughout the state, with a gala Oct. 12 at the Owls Head Transportation Museum.
"Sixteen thousand patients later, the word is out about LifeFlight," said Development Director Amy Root of the LifeFlight Foundation during the gala and fundraiser.
Root's own daughter, Phoebe, received a LifeFlight transport to Boston for an emergency liver transplant, saving the girl's life. During her speech at the event, Root explained the importance of raising money to increase the size of the fleet and the availability of LifeFlight.
Last year, she said, LifeFlight missed more than 250 calls, not including times that foul weather kept the helicopters grounded, because the crews were already busy responding to other calls.
"We must expand our fleet," she said.
The charity organization, supported by donors, needs to raise $3.5 million to add a fixed-wing aircraft to the fleet that would make faster, longer flights possible and improve LifeFlight's ability to fly in difficult weather. She said this would make flights from Fort Kent to Boston possible.
The organization is also raising $6.8 million to add a third helicopter to the fleet.
The speech was part of LifeFlight's 15th Anniversary Chef’s Gala, a semi-formal event featuring fine food from a number of local chefs to raise funds for the organization. Several speakers at the event highlighted the role of LifeFlight.
Norm Ledwin of the organization's steering committee said 15 years ago, organizers of Maine's first medical helicopter program were told Maine is "too rural, too big, and too poor" and that it was not very sophisticated. He said the organizers did not accept that.
They set out with the goal of creating a world class and, above all, safe, program to serve all in Maine regardless of their ability to pay.
Dr. Norm Dinerman of the steering committee said LifeFlight has done nothing less than change the face of medical practice in the state because the work it does really involves the coordination of paramedics, pilots and doctors and nurses at hospitals all over the state.
"When we meet people, it's the worst day of their life," he said. "And we help them get that day back."
In critical medical crisis, time is vital, said Dr. Larry Hopperstead, also a member of the steering committee. Paramedics and nurses on LifeFlight "arrest the process of dying" by providing stabilization and resuscitation.
These LifeFlight team members have a passion to become the best and to help other team members do the same, he said.
Many stories of survival through this program were shared at the event, and patients attended and were recognized.
A young man, not expected to survive an accident, instead gets to graduate from high school and go on to college because of LifeFlight. One of the stories mentioned was of KC Ford, who was critically injured when the plane she was on leaving Matinicus crashed into the ocean. The helicopter flight to Central Maine Medical Center saved her.
Abi Martin of Belfast attended the event with her dad, Jeremy. She suffered brain trauma after hitting a tree while skiing on Sugarloaf and was saved by LifeFlight.
LifeFlight partnered with local chefs to provide a feast of tapas. These culinary artists included Josh Hixson from 3 Crow and 40 Paper, Kerry Altiero from Café Miranda, Melody Wolfertz from In Good Company, Max Miller from The Landings, Scott Yakovenko from The Slipway and Andrew Omo from the Dip Net. There were also desserts from Sweet Sensations, Beth’s Buns, and Laugh Loud Smile Big.
Entertainment was provided by the Tony Boffa Band.
Artist Eric Hopkins donated a painting from his personal collection to be auctioned off as part of the fundraiser. Hopkins chose to donate the painting in memory of his late son, Evan Hopkins, and in honor of North Haven EMS and Fire.
To learn more about LifeFlight, visit lifeflightmaine.org or call 230-7092.
Courier-Gazette Editor Daniel Dunkle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 594-4401 ext. 122.
207 594-4401 ext. 122
Daniel Dunkle is editor of The Courier-Gazette and news director for Courier Publications. He lives in Rockland with his wife, Christine, who also works for Courier Publications, and two children.
Dunkle has previously served as editor of The Republican Journal in Belfast. He has worked as a reporter and photographer in the Midcoast for 15 years.
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