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As word spread about the lifesaving rescue, it started to sink in that Mainers really needed this critical care air ambulance service, recalled pilot Dave Burr, rotor-wing manager for contractor SevenBar Aviation, who has been piloting for LifeFlight since 2000.


“That was the foundation we began to build upon, especially around the (Penobscot) Bay,” Burr said. “They began to believe in us and what we do.”


Kyra and others saved by LifeFlight of Maine recently donned LifeFlight “Survivor” t-shirts for a campaign that is raising money for this critically important non-profit during its 20th anniversary.


“I found out if we had been even two more minutes longer getting off the island, neither Kyra nor I would be here today,” Megan posted on LifeFlight of Maine’s Facebook page as part of the survivor campaign. “So, LifeFlight is pretty special to our family. Every year around Kyra’s birthday, I send pictures to share as a small way of saying thank you.”


LifeFlight is the critical care bridge across Maine, serving every hospital, EMS service and community. From trauma scenes to premature newborns to ECMO, LifeFlight provides advanced resuscitation and continuity of critical care.


Unique Statewide System


Maine is one of only a few states with a single, statewide non-profit air ambulance service. LifeFlight is studied throughout the world for its successful model that combines low patient costs, high safety, top-of- the-line equipment and extreme efficiency born from adaptability. Such a statewide critical care transport system probably wouldn’t have been possible without Maine’s harsh weather, heavily wooded landscape (Maine has the highest percentage of forest land in the Lower 48), more than 300 islands, relatively low-income residents, and the oldest and most rurally dispersed population in the Lower 48. Private for-profit air ambulance companies just didn’t see Maine as a place where they could make money; that left a huge void.


When a single company tried to start a medical helicopter service in 1993, the state wanted to support it so badly that it waived a requirement for twin engines. Within six months, the company’s helicopter crashed into Casco Bay after running out of fuel, killing a patient and two clinical crew members, then shut down.


But plenty of people were suffering premature death without any air medical service, too. Judge was part of a team that set out to create a statewide non-profit critical care transportation system that now is funded by all of Maine’s hospitals and more than 200 mostly small communities.


44 Sept/Oct 2018


“It’s this universal participation that makes LifeFlight unique in the country,” said Judge, who also serves on the volunteer fire rescue department in his small settlement of Port Clyde. “All of these communities see LifeFlight as an extension of their local healthcare system. We’re a private non-profit, but we’re a public good.”


The state government has floated three voter-approved bond issues to help create LifeFlight’s infrastructure that includes hospital helipads, weather stations, fuel trucks, GPS approaches, and emergency communications. The state does not provide annual government appropriations.


The survivor t-shirts are just the latest in a series of LifeFlight fundraisers. A recent annual fundraising 3-mile swim raised a cool half-million dollars. Hundreds of small fundraisers have taken place in tiny rural communities such as Guilford (population: 1,448), where the Lovell family’s hardware store has conducted an annual fundraiser ever since LifeFlight rescued a young family member. LifeFlight purchased its first next-gen rotorcraft in 2017 through the generosity of 602 donors who gave a combined $6 million.


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