But since 1998, a Kennesaw company has been lifting people from Cherokee County far from the comforts of land, in spite of a fear of death, so that they might live.
Georgia Air Life Five is a helicopter EMS service headquartered at Cobb-McCollum Airport in Kennesaw. It is one of six Georgia Air Life posts in the metro Atlanta area and covers Cobb, Bartow and Cherokee counties.
Jesse Turk, a flight paramedic with GALF, said Monday that their Cherokee County calls are mostly from the southern part of the county, and, as is the case with most of their calls, things have to be especially serious for them to be sent out.
Perhaps the most notable Cherokee County flight for Georgia Air Life in recent months was when 44-year-old Canton resident Shane Newton was bitten by a rattle snake in November 2012.
He was air-lifted to WellStar Kennestone Hospital, Cherokee County EMS Operations Chief Danny West said Friday. GALF did not handle the flight, but one of their flight nurses, Mike Applegate, flew along and cared for Newton with Jasper-based crew, the Georgia Air Life Three, Newton said Friday, praising the efforts of Applegate and other crew members aboard, Russell Brown, Mark Maglothin and Beth Brown.
On their website, the Cherokee County Fire Department said it took them 50 minutes to reach Newton, because his location near Waleska was so remote.
In that time, Newton drifted in and out of
consciousness, as his throat slowly swelled shut.
West said Newton’s location and deteriorating condition made an EMS flight necessary.
“It was so remote,” he said, but, with the help of Georgia Air Life, “We were able to get him to the hospital about 30 minutes faster than if we transported him by ambulance.”
West said, the 30 minutes saved by using helicopter EMS might’ve made all the difference for Newton.
“It very well could’ve been life or death for him,” he said.
Turk said it’s time that normally demands helicopter EMS.
In the lightest of traffic, it takes around 25 minutes to get from Cobb-McCollum to downtown Canton by car.
But by helicopter, Turk said, even with the worst traffic calamity imaginable unfolding on Interstate 575, that same trip takes just eight minutes. To Woodstock, it takes half that time, he said.
This speed sets helicopter EMS services like Georgia Air Life apart from more traditional ground services, but Turk said the principles are the same.
“It’s EMS with a different vehicle,” he said, “a faster vehicle that goes two miles a minute.”
But speed isn’t everything, Turk said.
It’s also about care, or, as he and his fellow crew members like to put it, the “higher” level of care they provide.
Patients flying with Georgia Air Life can expect something not common in ground EMS vehicles: a nurse.
Turk said this allows them to administer many more medications aboard.
“I don’t know of anywhere else you can get that (but from helicopter EMS),” he said.
Having a nurse flying along also gives them the ability to transport hospital patients in critical condition from one hospital to another, while keeping them under steady care.
“It’s nurse to nurse,” he said.
Besides providing patients with quality care, GALF crew members said working for much of the day 500-1,000 feet above Earth, flying at two-miles-a-minute isn’t bad either.
“That’s an added bonus,” Turk said. “But it’s really about the ability to truly make a difference moment by moment.”