On the Road to Recovery
Randy and Erica Lord and their two children, Lisa, 13 and Damon, 10, live on a 100-acre ranch in Pope Valley, California. Randy, a heavy equipment operator, has always been healthy. “He’s never had any health problems,” says wife, Erica. “Nothing. Healthy as a horse.” She pauses. “But then he got the cold.”
It was not how the Lords expected to ring in the New Year. 42-year old Randy noticed mild cold symptoms on December 30. A few days later, he started feeling worse. On his second visit to the St. Helena Hospital ER, he was given fluids, which helped for a time, but by January 4, Randy was septic and had full-blown pneumonia.
“They put him in the ICU around 4:00 a.m.,” says Erica. “When I came back at 8:00, the doctor told us he wanted to send Randy to Memorial Hospital in Santa Rosa. I said, ‘Okay, how are you going to do that?’ He said, ‘By helicopter.’ So I left the room to call family, and by the time I got back, the REACH crew was already there and had Randy pretty much ready for transport. They were fast!”
REACH sent Pilot Ken Suzuki, Flight Nurse Rosanna Mendoza and Flight Paramedic Rafael Bautista to assist Randy. “They were absolutely wonderful,” Erica says. “Rosanna explained everything to me. I really appreciated that. I also remember thinking, He’s going to be so mad that he got to ride in a helicopter and won’t remember it!” Randy was already intubated and sedated—and would remain so for nearly a month.
Flight Paramedic Rafael Bautista always knew he wanted to be in a lifesaving profession. “My uncle was one of the first 100 advanced life support paramedics in the state. From the time I was a kid, I wanted to be a paramedic and firefighter like him.”
Rafael has been with REACH for ten of his 16 years as a paramedic. “It’s a great job.” he says. “It’s so gratifying to care for people in critical situations—to go in and really focus on that individual and their needs. And the fact that people trust us to walk into homes and hospital rooms to take care of their loved ones is very meaningful.”
The REACH crew delivered Randy safely to Memorial Hospital, where his condition presented the staff with quite a challenge. “Multiple doctors said that they’d never seen anyone that sick before,” Erica shares. “They tested him for everything, including nine different flus, two types of HIV, and hepatitis. His lungs weren’t working at all—they had him on 100% oxygen.”
“It was a really humbling experience,” Randy states. “I don’t remember the ride. There’s a lot I don’t remember. Basically I remember getting sick, and then I got sicker, and then I woke up a month later in Santa Rosa. I had no clue. I would have guessed it had been three or four days, but it was February.”
To this day, the reasons for Randy’s extreme illness are unclear. During his hospital stay, he required three blood transfusions. He weighed 160 pounds when he was admitted, and checked out in February weighing just 125. But he did eventually start getting better thanks to unceasing medical and personal support.
The Happy Dance
Cheryl Dawson’s enthusiasm is effortless and sincere. This is notable for a woman discussing the severe health crisis that in 2012 earned her a long-term bed at Feather River Hospital. Cheryl was diagnosed with an auto-immune condition that was effectively killing her liver. After decades of good health, she was in uncharted territory. Cheryl says, “I’m a naturalist, and I’ve always taken care of myself. When the doctor said I was going to need a liver transplant, I told him he was out of his mind!” But Cheryl got sicker and sicker.
For transplant patients, the pre-qualification process is arduous. “You have to pretty much be dying to actually get a transplant organ,” Cheryl states. So she waited, kept afloat by supportive family and friends, excellent doctors and her own positive outlook.
January 4th turned out to be an auspicious day, including an unexpected surprise. “Just talking about it gives me all kinds of energy!” she says. “It was one of the peak experiences of my life, and so much of that was because of the REACH crew.” One of the hospital staff asked if she would be afraid to ride in a helicopter. Cheryl remembers being puzzled. “I said ‘No,’ but I really didn’t get what was happening.”
Then it happened. “I’ll never forget. You know in hospitals you never have any privacy, especially in the ICU, where there are constantly people in and out of your room. Well, in walk these people dressed like they are from Star Trek. Beautiful people! I connected with them right away. I was like ‘Really?!? Beam me up!’” These people were Cheryl’s REACH flight crew.
“They immediately took control in the most efficient, non-threatening way possible,” Cheryl remembers. “They made me completely aware of what was going to happen, and at the same time, they were doing all these nursing duties.” REACH flew Cheryl to California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco. “That was one of the top thrills of my life!” she exclaims. “The crew made the ride fun, and it was an absolutely gorgeous day.”
A Hunter’s Heart
Dove hunting with his best friend and grandson was just getting underway when Ken Bostel felt a sharp pain in the area of his heart. He informed his companions: “I’m having a heart attack.” His friend remembered having seen something on TV about the things you’re supposed to do under those circumstances, but the only one he could remember was “breathe hard and cough.” So Ken followed orders as they jumped in the truck and headed to the nearest hospital. Once there, Methodist AirCare was called to fly Ken to Methodist Texsan Hospital for a stent.
It was good emergency care, a healthy dose of luck and an unstoppable sense of humor that kept him alive that day. As Ken was being wheeled into the operating room, he asked the doctor if he could see his wife. The doctor answered, “You know, the sooner we take care of this the better.” “I guess she can wait,” answered Ken.
Ken had a lot to be thankful for that day–and as he says, he figures he’s living on “blessed time.” In his view, anything after age 70 is a gift–and having survived a painful heart attack at age 69, his sense of gratitude is as acute as his sense of humor. He’s doing great today because of quick intervention and transport via Methodist AirCare.
Ken’s own words describe his experience best: “I must say it was a very pleasant ride under the circumstances. The helicopter crew arrived and transferred me to the ‘bird’, and we were on our way. The whole crew was very friendly, and we had a pleasant, almost fun time flying to the hospital. I had a little extra discomfort on the way, but one of the lovely ladies on the helicopter gave me a little ‘happy juice’ and everything was just wonderful the rest of the way. They wheeled me down the ramp from the helicopter right into the procedure room, where about 20 minutes later the doctor said the plumbing job went well, meaning he had unclogged the artery and everything was working like normal with no heart damage. The helicopter crew had also put my wife at ease after they had me in the procedure room and told her I was going to be just fine and that I had entertained them on our flight. I want to thank them for a job well done. You can’t improve on greatness!”