Flight For Life Colorado celebrates 40th anniversary.
There are many well-known firsts for the state of Colorado, but while Flight for Life is a recognized institution in the state and in the country, many may not know that its origins are in Colorado. Flight For Life Colorado, as it is officially known since 2004, was first established in 1972 as the first hospital-based aerial emergency service in the nation.
Kathleen Mayer, program director for Flight For Life Colorado, began her career there in 1984 as a flight nurse. She said Flight For Life has “transported more than 110,000 patients” throughout its existence via helicopter, ambulance and airplane. “We’ve transported patients from the tiniest newborns to the elderly.”
Cindy Gutierrez became a paramedic five years ago and said her previous work with Flight For Life inspired her to work with the organization. “That was one of my goals,” she said. Gutierrez, who works in an ambulance district in a rural area, officially became a team member in late June of this year.
Gutierrez works primarily on a helicopter as an LG4 paramedic, but said, “We are trained to work in all bases.”
When asked what situations would require the use of a Flight For Life team, Gutierrez said some of the services necessitated by a patient might not be available in a hospital located in a rural area, such as level 1 trauma center or burn center.
For safety precautions and also to accommodate the patients needs and the pilot and Flight For Life crew, family members may not always be able to board along with their loved one. “If it’s a helicopter, we very seldom let the family member board. On the Fixed-Wing they can go with us,” Gutierrez said.
Patients who utilize Flight For Life are billed for their services however, Mayer said that each year they write off up to five million because it can be a hefty expense for the patients. “We would not exist without the donations of individuals and corporations,” Mayer said.
Flight For Life Colorado offers different forms of vehicle transportation. Depending on the situation and weather conditions, patients may be transported via helicopter, Fixed-Wing or ambulance. Flight For Life also provides aerial search support.
Mayer said Flight For Life has provided assistance in “avalanche rescues and backcountry activities” in an effort to aid “fallen climbers and people that are lost, that are ill or injured and who are a long way from civilization.”
La Voz asked Gutierrez what has been most rewarding for her in working for Flight For Life Colorado: “Being able to have that patient contact and take care of people and take them where they need to go and treat them as fast as we can,” she said.
Mayer concurred with Gutierrez saying, “The ability to be present for people on what for many is the worst day of their life.”
Gutierrez expressed her admiration for the organization saying it is the “best job” she’s ever had and also mentioned the training and continuous learning experience it is to work for Flight For Life. “I think that the whole organization is a very good organization to work for. There is so much teamwork,” she said.