Life on the Fly

Helicopter Medical Crews Stationed at Dolphin Aviation to Help the Injured After Hurricane Dorian

“The only time you need us is when it’s catastrophic and the other systems have failed.”

By Susan Burns September 6, 2019

A group of Med Trans pilots, nurses, paramedics and mechanics at Dolphin Aviation.

Image: Susan Burns

There are all kinds of jobs in the world, and this week, 80 pilots, nurses, paramedics and mechanics dressed in blue or black one-piece uniforms were sprawled on the floor and every seat available inside the Dolphin Aviation terminal at Sarasota Bradenton International Airport, waiting be activated to communities that need medical help after Hurricane Dorian. They work for Med Trans, one of the companies under Global Medical Response (GMR), a Dallas-based company that provides emergency medical care and relocation to 5.5 million patients annually around the world.

A Med Trans helicopter is ready to take flight

Image: Susan Burns

Ken Grimes

Med Trans is GMR’s air medical transport company, which contracts with hospitals and local emergency medical agencies, such as fire departments, all over the country to transport the injured and sick to hospitals on helicopters. But they’re also a FEMA contractor during disasters. Since 2005, they’ve been at every U.S. hurricane (including in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands) to transport patients from devastated hospitals and accident scenes to other hospitals.

“The United States has an exceptional organization for handling medical emergencies,” says Ken Grimes, the vice president of development for Med Trans and a former Longboat Key firefighter. “The only time you need us is when it’s catastrophic and the other systems have failed.”

The Med Trans crew keeps busy while awaiting orders.

Image: Susan Burns

While they waited, the crew played cards, tapped on laptops and phones, and even knitted. It’s a job of long waits and spurts of adrenaline, they say, but ultimately gratifying because it’s about saving lives. On Thursday, when it was clear the Med Trans crew wouldn’t be needed in Florida, they flew off for Charleston, South Carolina.

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