ESCANABA, Mich. (WJMN) – Stationed in Escanaba, Guardian Flight works around the clock providing air medical services when time is of the essence.
“The two types of calls we run are interfacility transports and scene calls,” said Josh Menard, flight RN/paramedic, Guardian Flight. “Which scene flight means it’s a 911 response. So an interfacility transport just means the hospital has called them to transfer the patient from their hospital to a larger hospital. So for instance, the reason we are located where we’re at in Escanaba is because our company likes to be out in the rural areas where the calls originate.”
In the U.P., many of those patients go to Marquette which is the areas regional trauma center. A flight that from Escanaba takes about 25 minutes.
“You know in the instance of trauma, or if you’re having a heart attack, that’s a big time saver,” said Menard. “So the other flights that we do, the 911 service, the scene flights, that would be when a car accident occurs, snowmobile accidents, any kind of thing that you’d basically call 911 for. What happens there is, if there is a car accident, police, fire or EMS can launch us.”
Menard showed Local 3 News what it’s like when they get a call.
“Typically what happens when we get a flight request, what we have to do is check weather,” said Menard. “You know, having a base that’s sandwiched between the Great Lakes, you get a lot of unpredictable weather up here. So that’s kind of the first step in the process. Somebody will contact our dispatch asking if we can accept the flight based off of the weather and the two med crew members get involved with that as well as our pilot.”
Menard says scene flights are little more difficult to work with when deciding if they can accept the flight.
“Then we need to get GPS coordinates to the accident scene, figure out where we’re going,” said Menard. “So, a lot of times, we’ll come down and we’ll check out the map and then the pilots utilize several different weather reporting stations that we’ll look at to make sure that we can accept and complete the flight.”
As long as he can keep up with the physical demand of the job and do it well, being at in this position is exactly where Menard wants to be.
“I went to EMT school. I was working downstate in Jackson, MI, decided to go to paramedic school and during that time there working in emergency medicine, I loved it,” said Menard. “There was nothing like it. But, I had a chance to work with Survival Flight and be on the other side of launching a helicopter, being the one to call and I just always thought it was the greatest thing ever when you get to work with these guys and was just in awe of what they do and quite honestly am still in quite awe of what they do.”
Rue Eady is another member of the Guardian Flight crew as a flight RN/paramedic. She’s been there for three years.
“I have always wanted to be a flight nurse since I was in high school,” said Eady. “I don’t know but for whatever reason and EMS always appealed to me. The unknown, the excitement of it.”
With seven days on and seven off, her work becomes a second home.
“It’s taken a lot of sacrifice all along the way” said Eady. “I mean I’ve devoted most of my life to getting here and then now to it is kind of like two different worlds I suppose being at home and then being here but even when I’m at home, I’m still thinking about education and what I can do to better myself for this job. It is a huge commitment.”
Reporter: When asked what kind of person it takes to do this job, Menard had one word.
“Resilient,” said Menard. “In all aspects of the job. Family, to your mental resilience as well. When I first interviewed for the job and found out what this schedule was going to be like, obviously that was something I took into consideration. I had two young children and a wife so you know, we discussed the schedule being gone 50% of the time. You know, my wife said, “Let’s try it. I know it’s been one of your dreams.” So it was a sacrifice that the whole family actually made. So, it’s worked out. Nine years… still married… so far, so good. As far as the resilience of seeing what you see in this career, it can be extremely challenging and it is. I always remind myself though when you see some of the bad things that happen to people, at the end of the day, I didn’t cause that. That is not my fault. I’m just here trying to make it better.”
Serving from the western end of the U.P. to the eastern end, they average out to about a flight once per day. No matter the call or the outcome, each one leaves a lasting impact.
“It’s hard to talk about but sometimes the last moments that we spend with people are some of the most impactful times because that’s, it’s almost a gift to be able to spend those impactful moments with people where their family members aren’t able to be there,” said Eady. “Or if there is a situation where we are the ones that get to spend those with someone. It’s, it’s an honor almost. I feel like it’s an honor to be able to spend that time with people.”
“Every patient is a learning experience,” said Menard. “Whether it was a critical patient or a basic patient, you can learn something from every single call. So I think that after every flight, when you take all of those little pieces that you learn from every flight, you kind of just put those arrows in your quiver, just makes you a resilient provider at the end of the day.”
In the Upper Peninsula, Guardian Flight also has planes stationed in Iron Mountain and Houghton. Below is Guardian Flight’s Service Area Map:
Membership options to Guardian Flight are also available so in case of an emergency and a flight is needed, the cost is brought down. For more information contact Carrie Bartel-Petrin at (906) 241-3855 or through email at Carrie.Bartel-Petrin@gmr.net.
For more information on Guardian Flight, click here.