Mr. and Mrs. Lowman live in the rural town of White Sulphur Springs, Montana. Located nearly 75 miles from the nearest stoplight, the Lowman’s ranch sits on a small hilltop outside this quaint community.
One evening this past February, as the couple began settling in for another quiet night at home, something unexpected happened and Mrs. Lowman wound up in the fight of her life.
“We had just finished dinner, and when I was done cleaning the kitchen, I sat down on the couch,” said Mrs. Lowman. “Right away I started feeling queasy, but I thought maybe my dinner wasn’t sitting right with me. Soon I started sweating-like something out of a movie–my face was dripping and my clothes were soaking wet.”
Shortly thereafter, Mrs. Lowman began to experience intense chest pains. Not wanting to make a fuss, she reassured herself that the pain was just indigestion and that it would pass. However, the longer she sat there, the worse the pain seemed to become. Soon she was yelling to her husband for help.
I told him ‘I don’t know what’s going on, but I think you need to call 911.’”
Mrs. Lowman, Survivor
Within minutes, the Sheriff was outside the Lowman home shoveling snow from the back walkway so the paramedics could get inside the house. Soon Mrs. Lowman was loaded into the back of an ambulance on her way to Mountainview Medical Center. There, her doctor would discover that she was having a heart attack.
Being that Mountainview is a small rural hospital with limited resources, Mrs. Lowman’s physician knew right away that she would need to be transported to a larger facility for care. However, the closest hospitals that could treat her were located two hours away by ambulance. With the weather being poor and time being of the essence, her doctor knew she would have to be transported in the fastest and safest way possible – via a helicopter.
“When the doctor told me they were going to send me to Billings, I told him ‘Scott, you’ll have to fix me here; you can’t make me leave,’” said Mrs. Lowman. “But the look on his face told me I was going to have to go anyway.”
The hospital placed a call to REACH’s 24-hour communications center to request a helicopter. They would be sending an aircraft from REACH’s base located in Bozeman. On duty that night were Pilot Jordan Gipe, Flight Nurse Emily Rex, and Flight Paramedic Jesse Baysinger.
“We were told the patient was experiencing chest pains, so we knew exactly what to expect when we arrived,” said Emily.
Upon landing safely at the hospital, the crew set about preparing Mrs. Lowman for transport. After assessing her condition, Emily and Jesse knew that it was going to be critical that they think two steps ahead in terms of clinical care.
“Mrs. Lowman was really unstable,” said Emily. “She had incredibly low blood pressure and a low heart rate, so we wanted to get her to a higher level of care immediately.”
After completing all their assessments and pre-flight preparations, Emily and Jesse talked the Lowman’s through the entire transport process. When all their questions were answered and Jesse and Emily had taken down Mr. Lowman’s cell phone number, they set out toward the helipad.
“They were incredibly knowledgeable people,” said Mrs. Lowman. “They were talking to me and making me feel like it was all going to be ok because I was in their care. I really got the sense that they cared about me as a person, and it made me feel as comfortable as I could be in that situation.”
With the aircraft safely loaded, Jordan lifted the twin-engine AW109 helicopter and departed for Billings. Despite being outfitted with the most advanced safety features, this aircraft is no match for the sometimes-unpredictable weather in Montana. Shortly after takeoff, Jordan knew that for everyone’s safety, he had to return to the helipad in White Sulphur Springs. A bad snowstorm was moving in quickly along the flight path to Billings and they wouldn’t be able to safely navigate around it. This happens in air transport and making the safe decision is paramount for everyone on board. They were going to have to move to Plan “B.” With the help of the staff at Mountainview, they began looking for other facilities that could treat Mrs. Lowman – Bozeman Deaconess is the hospital they selected.
While back at Mountainview, Jesse and Emily tried to reach Mr. Lowman so they could update him on what was happening. After several unsuccessful attempts, the local Sheriff finally made contact and provided him with an update. With Mr. Lowman now headed off toward Bozeman, it wouldn’t be long before his wife followed in the helicopter.
Once they received clearance, the crew loaded up once again and were off.
During the flight, Emily and Jesse paid close attention to Mrs. Lowman’s vital signs and were prepared to act if her condition began to decline.
“We monitored her vitals, gave her some fluids, and kept the defibrillator pads handy just in case,” said Emily. “With an unstable patient like Mrs. Lowman, you have to plan for things to get worse.”
With an unstable patient like Mrs. Lowman, you have to plan for things to get worse.”
Emily Rex, Flight Nurse
In addition to providing excellent clinical care, the pair also provided Mrs. Lowman with a bit of emotional support. Because she was outfitted with a headset, Emily and Jesse could talk with her throughout the flight and make sure she was feeling comfortable and at ease.
“They spoke to me the whole way and let me know exactly what was going on,” said Mrs. Lowman. “They made me feel so comfortable. I realize it is their job, but these people weren’t robots, they showed me they were compassionate, they had feelings.”
It wasn’t long before Jordan was safely touching down on the helipad of Bozeman Deaconess Hospital. There, Emily and Jesse delivered Mrs. Lowman into the hands of a clinical team that would take her right to the Cath lab for imaging, and eventually, into surgery. Altogether, Mrs. Lowman had to have two stents put in her heart; but just three days after her flight with REACH, she was well enough to go back home to the ranch.
We are happy to report that today Mrs. Lowman is feeling 100 percent. In fact, she feels so good that she recently decided to fulfill her lifelong dream of opening her own antique shop. Hilltop Antiques opened its doors this May, and in addition to telling everyone about her new business venture, Mrs. Lowman has made it her mission to help spread the word about both REACH and the AirMedCare Network membership program.
“I am thrilled that we have REACH in Montana,” said Mrs. Lowman. “I tell everyone to buy a membership. I tell them about how I was a person who thought they’d never need it, but how it ended up saving my life. Something like this could easily happen to anyone.”