The terrible death of actress Natasha Richardson highlights the value of medevac helicopters. According to Tarek Razek, director of trauma services for the McGill University Health Center in Montreal, the lack of a medical airlift may have contributed to Richardson's death.The actress was skiing last week in Montreal when she suffered what at first appeared to be a minor head wound. After she became very sick, she had to be driven 2 1/2 hours to the nearest trauma center. Richardson did not recover and died.
Dr. Razek, Montreal's leading head trauma specialist, says that a "helicopter is obviously the fastest way to get from point a to point b." And he said that Montreal is not as well-equipped with medevacs as other parts of Canada or the United States.
Recently, there have been questions raised in the U.S. over the use of medevacs. Some high-profile accidents have led investigators to wonder if the helicopters are flying too often, in minor cases, in order to justify their costs.
Several years ago, my videographer partner and I spent a week with the medevac unit at Leigh Valley Hospital in Pennsylvania. During that time, they medevac'd a heart attack patient and an unconscious car accident victim.
Medevacs save lives. Accidents will happen, just as they do with road ambulances. But faced with a 2 hour drive to a trauma center when your life is at stake, you'll opt for the chopper every time.