LifeStar a Valued Partner for 35 Years

Coal City Fire Chief James Seerup, a LifeStar partner and former patient, is pictured with his family enjoying the open house festivities for LifeStar's 35th anniversary September 10 in Joliet.(Photo courtesy of Air Methods)
Coal City Fire Chief James Seerup, a LifeStar partner and former patient, is pictured with his family enjoying the open house festivities for LifeStar's 35th anniversary September 10 in Joliet. (Photo courtesy of Air Methods)

By Nick Reiher

As community members, partners and crew members celebrated LifeStar Air Ambulance’s 35th anniversary Sunday, Sept. 10, officials at the Joliet headquarters got a call from Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox.

“We had a pediatric emergency that came in to the hospital,” said Dr. Dave Mikolajczak, medical director for the Silver Cross EMS program. “We called LifeStar to pick up the child and take them to Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago.”

Mikolajczak said Silver Cross has worked with LifeStar for 30 years, before moving from Joliet to its current campus. when the hospital still was at its Joliet campus.

“And I’ve known their medical director, Dr. Mark Cichon, for 40 years, since we were in residency together.”

Cichon said in a press release the program’s success is due to partnerships with many people and programs.

“Over the years, I’ve interacted with many phenomenal individuals from nurses, medics, pilots, mechanics, dispatchers, and other support staff,” said Cichon, Loyola University Medical Center physician, professor, and chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine.

“Their efforts on behalf of the patients and communities they served were always patient and safety-centered. Many individuals are enjoying their families today because of this expertise.

“There are many ways to describe this dedication: passion for their profession, compassion for their patients, and professionalism for this work.”

LifeStar began as a hospital-based program in 1988 based out of Loyola University Medical Center. Air Methods, the nation’s leading air medical service provider, acquired LifeStar in 2007, according to the press release, and was amended to become a community-based program.

That same year, the base relocated to Joliet, officials said, to centrally locate and better serve the Illinois and Indiana region making it a more efficient, critical resource for surrounding communities.

The LifeStar team provides support to first responders and hospitals, offering the community critical care 24/7/365 and responding to emergency medical and trauma events including heart attacks and strokes, burns, and other critical ailments and incidents, essentially serving as a flying intensive care unit.

One emergency medical service (EMS) associate has a unique perspective of what it’s like to not only be a LifeStar partner but also as a patient, needing LifeStar’s critical care service.

In November 2018, Coal City Fire Chief James Seerup experienced severe abdominal pains that landed him in Morris Hospital. Needing higher-level care, the LifeStar crew responded to the call and provided an interfacility transfer to Loyola University Medical Center.

At Loyola, the medical team diagnosed Seerup with having an aneurysm.

“My biggest takeaway, not as a chief but as a patient, was my relief on how amazing the crew was to put my family at ease,” said Seerup, in the release. “The crew gave my wife their phone numbers and provided her updates on how I was doing and where I landed. Putting a family at ease is huge.”

Over the past three and a half decades, the LifeStar team say they have developed deep-rooted relationships with EMS partners and healthcare providers, lending to a seamless approach to patient care.

Mikolajczak said that includes coming to Silver Cross to train EMS responders on what the LifeStar team will need to know when they arrive to transport a patient. Since Silver Cross oversees a regional EMS program, LifeStar also will train responders how to find a suitable place for the helicopter to land when at an emergency scene.

“And when we need them, they are our go-to people,” Mikolajczak said. “They are really responsive.”

The LifeStar flight team — described as a small but mighty crew consisting of a pilot, nurse, and paramedic — receives annual state-of-the-art specialty training.

Pilots are trained using Level D Full Flight Simulators, the highest fidelity flight simulator approved by the Federal Aviation Administration, representing the most sophisticated and accurate simulators used by most commercial airlines.

Clinicians receive hands-on training through Air Methods Ascend, an in-person and online training program that allows clinicians to perform at the top of their licensure. Ascend is also available to medical personnel across the country.

Additionally, the LifeStar team achieved the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems (CAMTS) and carries the critical resources needed to provide ICU-level care while in flight.

Equipped with industry-leading equipment and medical devices, the team carries and can administer blood and/or plasma in flight, provide advanced airway intervention; cardiac and blood flow monitoring; ventilator management; medication administration and titration – monitoring potential side effects; and other advanced surgical procedures.

“We are here because of the people we serve,” said Liesl Esposito, LifeStar Clinical Base Lead and Flight Nurse, who has been with the LifeStar program for almost a decade. “We were thrilled to be able to share our anniversary with the community.”


LifeStar routinely works with Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox to transport critical patients requiring specialty care for burns or pediatric emergencies. (Photo courtesy of Silver Cross Hospital)





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