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Saving lives in the sky


Medical air team works together to transport COVID and non-COVID patients

EL CENTRO, Calif. (KYMA, KECY) - Above the Imperial Valley sky, Mercy Air is saving lives.

The full-service air medical transport system diverts patients, both with and without COVID-19, from the Imperial Valley to other hospitals across California.

They are known as the arms of El Centro, composed of three men who work as a team of a paramedic, a nurse, and a pilot.

A team didn’t realize it would be so instrumental during this global pandemic, but it's making sure the heart of the community is still beating.

“We kind of make a perfect team of hospital setting experience and 911 pre-hospital experience and when they pair us up to our education and backgrounds really mesh well and have a good synergy for patient care and taking care of patients," said Ryan Morgan, a Flight Parademic.

Before the pandemic, Mercy Air averaged 25-30 calls a month.
Now they get at least 45.

The pandemic has extended its flight times, taking them to new medical destinations.

Morgan continues by adding, “COVID has been a roller coaster, that's for sure. We’ve seen a big uptick on our transports since the pandemic started where we typically see 1 to 2 kinds of transport a day. We’re running 2 to 3 sometimes four hours a day. The real difference is the acuity of the patients that we’re seeing and the distance we’re transporting, and now with those beds reaching capacity we’re having to even farther our typical places were San Diego or to Palm Springs. With those beds reaching capacity, we’re going to Los Angeles and as far as Santa Barbara.”

“Its a new challenge flying with personal Protective equipment things like the masks and all the extra procedures we’re going through now umm its a good thing to work with a great team and be proud of what you’ve done," said Ken Jones, Pilot.

“We’re in the air an hour and a half now going to these other places but it’s an emergency situation we have to go wherever there is a bed available,” said Jeffrey Wise, Flight Nurse.

The team refers to the aircraft they use as a flying ICU, equipped with a ventilator and a defibrillator.

“You know its a great feeling because other than us, there is no way they’re going to get out of here and go to definitive care umm the ground units can’t do a lot of things we can do,” said Wise.

The best part, however, is when the flight is complete.

“I think the most rewarding part is calling the family and saying hey this is Ryan from Mercy Air we dropped off your mother, son, husband at this hospital this nurse and physician are taking care of them,” said Morgan.

The team says it will go as far as needed to save lives.

“If its COVID if it's not COVID if its a heart condition, brain injury, or traumatic injury we treat everybody the same it doesn’t matter what call comes through we’re gonna be there for somebody today.”

California Coronavirus / Imperial County Coronavirus / News / Top Stories

Gianella Ghiglino

Peruvian-born and LA raised Gianella Ghiglino joins the team from the San Fernando valley. “LA is the place that taught me how to breath and Peru is my breath.” She says she was inspired by the community she grew up in and began documenting her experience through poetry at the age of 7. “I wrote about everything I saw, felt and everything that inspired me.” When she entered High School she joined her school news station and realized that broadcast journalism allowed her to pursue her passion and her purpose all at once. Gianella attended Cal State Northridge and received a Bachelors degree in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in Spanish Broadcast Journalism, and Political Science. She did several internships while in College but most notably interned for PBS’s local LA station for three years. “My purpose is to share my story and of those in my community, my passion is writing.”


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