SELINSGROVE — Kay Guida said she is "very grateful" for Geisinger's Life Flight Program after her great-grandson needed emergency transport via the medical helicopter two years ago.
Guida, who attended the open house for the new base at the Penn Valley Airport near Selinsgrove on Saturday, said her great-grandson experienced some complications just after he was born in 2017. She said she is grateful for the care from the staff and program.
"I think it's magnificent," said Guida, who came with her husband Tony Guida, of Millmont, and their granddaughter Abigail, 6. "To have them here now, it's the absolute best. They are magnificent. They are a lifesaver."
Life Flight 1 relocated to the Penn Valley Airport in July to accommodate the program’s growth. With six of the fleets nine aircrafts operating around-the-clock, Life Flight 1 was moved from a hangar at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville to Penn Valley Airport. The move allows the program’s maintenance operations to have more space at the Danville hangar, according to Richard McHale, the Life Flight 1 Base manager.
Community members were invited on Saturday to visit the Life Flight hangar and learn more about the air ambulance program, explore the aircraft and meet members of the Life Flight team. Other local fire and emergency medical services providers were also on hand with their apparatus and team members.
"We're hoping to give more help to the communities that are seeking to help that we just couldn't reach in time because of the distance," said McHale.
The 24/7 operation has 15 employees in three-person shifts, he said.
Dave Hummel, captain of the Northumberland Fire Department, brought eight of the firefighters from the department to check out the new base. The fire department supports Life Flight at scenes.
"It's a great aircraft and a great facility that they set up at the airport," said Hummel. "It's ultra-modern. We're in Geisinger's territory, and we do respond in Danville at times."
Denise Hubbert, of Port Trevorton, brought her 20-month-old twins Elliott and Chase and her 5-year-old daughter Ady to the open house.
"This is so awesome," she said. "It makes it less scary for the kids. It's in our backyard and if we ever need anything, it's super awesome that it's right here."
Since 1981, Life Flight has transported more than 66,000 patients, with a current transport average of 2,800 patients per year. The program’s five other bases include State College, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport, Montoursville, Minersville and Leighton. The program includes approximately 130 staff members and is the second-largest air ambulance program in Pennsylvania. Life Flight is fully accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport System (CAMTS).
McHale also noted that the event had a raffle basket to benefit John Jankowski, a flight paramedic stationed in Selinsgrove, and his family. His fourth daughter Lucy was born premature and is receiving special treatment at Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Del.
McHale during the event also members of the DH&L Fire and Ambulance who responded to a patient with a heart attack. The patient went into cardiac arrest at the airport, which means they couldn't transport him by Life Flight. The crew worked on the man for two hours until he was stable enough to transport to the hospital. The members involved were Glen Buck, Nathan Eichner, Jacob Koch, Jesse Stauffer, Jason Kauffman, Jacob Showers, Kevin Hood, Josh Tirpak, Brian Hipple, Amber Brownson and Jessica Ross.