People who have come dangerously close to death understand how important emergency medical response is. For those who are lucky enough to survive serious accidents, the people they often credit are emergency medical responders.
In Texoma, one life-saving response team is Air Evac Lifeteam. This team is made up of crews who fly their patients, via helicopter E.M.S. to major area trauma centers. These medical responders are no longer conformed by gender precedent or stereotypes. Instead, it is women in the field who are making their mark in what was once a male-dominated industry.
Air Evac Lifeteam Base 34 is located in Wichita Falls. Air Evac medical flight crews respond to life-or-death accidents and/or trauma situations across Texoma. The team is made up of individuals, like Dana Bishop, who has a passion to save lives. With 35 years of experience, Bishop, a recent retiree at Air Evac, has seen the industry change first-hand when it comes to women who take to the air. Bishop shared her experience with Newschannel 6.
"I wanted to be a firefighter and that was kind of unheard of back in the middle-'70's... it was a starting thing, but it was very difficult for females to get into it," Bishop said. She began her career at a small volunteer fire department.
After pursuing her passion, Dana Bishop enrolled in an E.M.T. course. She passed her state test, then became an E.M.T.-firefighter-paramedic. At this point in her life and career, and after a couple close calls, Bishop realized she enjoyed the medicine aspect of her work even more than fighting fires.
Dana Bishop told Newschannel 6, "We had a cardiac arrest down the street from my house. I responded. We actually did mouth to mouth and we did chest compressions. I actually rode in the ambulance with the crew that came out and picked this lady up... Well, that was the start of something right there!"
Other women soon joined Bishop's ranks in the emergency response industry. Kelly Shaughnessy is a relatively new flight nurse stationed at Air Evac Lifeteam's Wichita Falls base. Prior to moving to Texas for the job, Shaughnessy worked at a level one trauma center in New York. She also told Newschannel 6 the story of how she began working for Air Evac. As a nurse retrieving patients flown in to the hospital she worked at, she described watching the helicopters land: "It's the greatest thing in the world... I kept saying, 'You know, one of these days, I'd like to do this myself.'"
After working as a nurse in the Emergency Room for more than 15 years, Shaughnessy said taking her medical expertise to the air - taking flight - was an obvious next step in the course of her career.
"If I said no to this job, I would probably regret it for the rest of my life," said Shaughnessy.
Emergency medical response is already difficult work, but when operating an E.R. from the air, things can prove to be even more challenging for crews.
"It takes a special breed of person to do this job in the first place. It doesn't matter if you're male or female," said Adrian Pena, a Strike Team Flight Nurse for Air Evac Lifeteam (RN CEN EMT-P).
One of the most difficult, but imperative aspects of their job is time. Time is critical for the team. In fact, time is part of what prompted the need for helicopter E.M.S. overall.
"Patients were not getting to hospitals in a timely fashion, so the advent of MedEvac -- which is helicopter E.M.S. -- got patients from accidents or in rural areas and got them to hospitals a lot faster than they would be going by ground."
The Program Director for Air Evac Lifeteam Base 34, Roger Ritchie, explained further.