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Life Flight, Intermountain Healthcare's air rescue service, celebrated 30 years of service today. Over the years, the once-small rescue crew has grown into a group of heroes.
Patients, including some from 30 years ago, reunited today with some of Life Flight's paramedics and nurses to thank them for saving their lives.
Rhea Shoemaker nearly lost her right foot, and her life, in a car wreck two years ago. She was driving down Highway 40 with her daughter in the backseat when she was hit head-on.
"I remember being taken from the car and put on a gurney, and I wanted to become hysterical and scream at the people around me to tell me where my daughter was, why wasn't she with me? Was she OK? And the Life Flight nurse came and held my face and looked in my eyes and told me that my daughter was OK," Shoemaker said.
Life Flight has taken over 60,000 patients to hospitals in the state. Ralph Evans was one of the first. When he was a Utah Highway Patrol officer, he was shot twice during a routine traffic stop.
"The shot that hit me hit me in the head and severed the carotid artery, and then after I went down I was shot in the back," Evans explained.
After a bumpy ambulance ride to the hospital, doctors decided to have Evans flown by Life Flight to a different hospital for treatment.
"They put me in Life Flight. I felt the lift off, I felt the touchdown, and it was the smoothest, most wonderful flight. It was wonderful compared to the ambulance," Evans said.
Since that helicopter transported Evans, Life Flight now uses three airplanes and four choppers to fly patients. One of the pilots has even needed to use it after suffering a brain aneurysm.
"I'm certainly happy about the service that air medical transport provides to patients, like ourselves, who find ourselves with a need to get the hospital now with quite a bit of urgency attached," said Bill, a safety manager for Life Flight.
All of the patients say the less-than-20-minute flight to the hospital saved their lives. "I don't think I would have survived, so mine truly was a ‘life flight,'" Shoemaker said.
The Life Flight aircraft have flown about 7.4 million miles combined in the last 30 years.