SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) — COVID-19 has forced businesses to put up the “closed for business” sign, but that’s not an option for health care workers, including those responsible for getting sick people to the hospital by helicopter.
It’s a mobile ICU. That’s how the MercyOne Air Med Flight crew humbly describes what they provide 24/7, 365 days of the year.
With and without COVID-19, these crews are transferring patients from rural communities to Sioux City and even Omaha.
“We’re just trying to be a bridge, to support them until they can get there,” said Nik Gonzalez, who manages the clinical crew for MercyOne Air Med.
He said this year has been eye-opening even for an experienced emergency responder.
“It’s tough. I mean, the patients that we’ve had are some of the sickest I’ve ever seen,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez adds just like the medical staff inside the hospitals walls, virus concerns are challenging for those inside MercyOne Air Med.
“It’s exhausting, but we still come in we try and do the same job and keep up with the pace and just watching out for each other and making sure we’re not getting worn down… I think everybody’s pretty exhausted. This has for sure jumped up our numbers,” Gonzalez said.
Nick Venezia is the MercyOne Air Med Pilot.
He said normally the crew would transfer patients back to a hospital but with the volume of COVID cases it has become a challenge figuring out which hospitals have room to admit a patient.
“We might find a patient that’s say out of Norfolk and have to move that patient all the way to Des Moines because the beds are full here in Sioux City,” Venezia said.
Pilot Venezia said despite the challenges COVID-19 has brought on, it’s still a privilege to takeoff on each call.
“I think each one of us has a key role. I don’t think one of us could do this role by ourselves. The medic can’t fly the aircraft, I certainly can’t administer to a patient,” Venezia said.
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