Intermountain Healthcare adds jet to fleet of Life Flight transport aircraft
Photo supplied, Intermountain Healthcare
SALT LAKE CITY — A new, highly advanced jet capable of transporting patients across the globe was unveiled on Wednesday by Intermountain Life Flight.
The aircraft, a Bombardier Challenger 604, will be used to transport patients for highly specialized care and will also enhance organ transplantation in Utah by retrieving donor organs throughout the nation.
The jet, with advanced avionics, has a range of 4,600 miles and is capable of flying anywhere in the world, at a cruising speed of Mach .80, or 613 miles per hour.
“Life Flight exists for one reason and one reason only and that is to take care of our community,” said Dr. Bill Beninati, a Utah pulmonologist and critical care physician. “This aircraft allows us to take things to a higher level. At any given time, we have friends, family or neighbors who can be all over the world, and sometimes it can end in critical injury. People heal better when they’re around loved ones, so getting people and bringing them back so they can complete their recovery in a familiar setting is important.”
Kent Johnson, director of aviation operations for Intermountain Life Flight and project manager for the Challenger 604, said the new jet can comfortably fit eight passengers with its larger cabin and allows medical teams more room to work on patients.
Photo supplied, Intermountain Healthcare
“We wanted a world-class environment for medical team members to perform advanced care for the most critical patients,” he said. “One feature is the extra-wide stretcher that’s like a Sleep Number bed. It’s adjustable and inflatable and gives a lot of comfort to the patient. It’s very cool.”
Other amenities include leather seats, hot and cold drinks, a bed and a large restroom for family members to relax.
“It rivals any first-class airline,” Johnson said. “This aircraft is going to be a great tool to serve the community for many years to come.”
The jet was recently used to transport 6-year-old Draper resident Ezra Partridge to Texas Children’s Hospital. Ezra’s father, Zane, said he believes the aircraft helped to save his son’s life.
Ezra started acting “a little weird” on Feb. 17, Partridge said. He didn’t feel like doing much of anything, including skiing, climbing stairs, eating and playing with friends, because he was so tired. A cardiology visit ended up revealing a life-threatening situation for the little boy.
“They found right-sided heart failure, which was not what we were expecting,” Partridge said. “When we got to Primary Children’s, we were hanging out in his bed watching Pokemon and he suddenly wasn’t there. He stopped breathing. His heart stopped. He went completely white.”
The hospital put Ezra on a heart-lung machine, called ECMO, and eventually transported him to Texas Children’s Hospital, where a specialized cardiologist was able to treat his problem.
ECMO, which stands for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, is a highly specialized, critical heart-lung bypass treatment in which a circuit pumps and supplies oxygen to the blood. It’s an extraordinary, delicate procedure requiring a team of specialists on the flight.
“Ezra took an awesome plane ride to Houston on this jet and the doctor there was able to open these veins that pretty much didn’t exist,” Partridge said. “He was able to fly back home on this jet plane and actually just got home last Wednesday. This is a very important tool for the very special cases and we are very grateful.”
Intermountain Life Flight pediatric nurse Laurie Merrick flew to Houston and back with Ezra.
“We had to have a team of five go with us and having a team that big with a lot more space was so nice,” she said.
The jet also has the capability to transport vital organs in a short amount of time.
Tracy Schmidt, executive director of DonorConnect, said the need for organs in Utah has increased, so the use of the new jet is critical. DonorConnect is the organ procurement agency that serves the Intermountain West.
“When you take a heart, liver or kidney and place it on ice, you know that organ is not in the best situation,” he said. “You need to get the organs transported as quickly as possible. Heart and lungs need to be transported and ready to go in under two hours, so this allows us to recover the organs in the operating room, package the organs, get them to the airport and to the transplant center and make those incisions in a fast and critical time frame.”