In rural Greenville and Upstate areas where a car crash victim might bleed out before reaching the nearest trauma center, there are rescuers on wings, swooping in to save lives.

Pilots, paramedics, and nurses rescue hundreds of people each year with the Greenville Health System’s MedTrans helicopter and AirMed Regional fixed-wing medical plane EMS programs.

The flight EMS programs field several calls per day and transport patients from nearby rural hospitals to GHS. They also carry patients to Duke University, a burn center in Augusta, Ga., or to a pediatric burn center at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in Charleston,

MedTrans was recently named 2016 Small System of the Year by the S.C. EMS Association, and Sarah Fabiano, medical director of GHS MedTrans and AirMed Regional, was named the 2016 Medical Director of the Year.

Dr Sarah Fabiano won 2016 Medical Director of the Year

Fabiano oversees 30 to 40 nurses and paramedics. They handle the most difficult EMS calls, including severe burns, gunshot wounds, motorcycle and car crashes, heart attacks, and strokes. They also transport frail and very ill people from one hospital to another when they need more extensive care.

Fabiano’s and MedTrans’ recognition was partly due to additional training and innovations the air EMS crew has employed. The staff now is trained for surgical airway ventilation, which is putting a tube in someone’s neck to alleviate pressure on their chest and lungs.

“We had this past year, two cases where a person was not able to be ventilated very well, and we had to put a tube in their neck. It’s rare to do it. Period,” Fabiano says. “The team met with the lady afterwards because she wanted to thank them for saving her life.”

Another new edition to the flight team’s work is a CPR machine, named AutoPulse. As the crew flies a patient with sudden cardiac arrest to the hospital, the equipment performs continuous compression. The technology is more efficient than the usual CPR.

Award-winning MedTrans helicopter team at work

The next step will be to use ultrasound to look for internal bleeding and collapsed lungs in trauma patients, Fabiano says.

“We trained staff to use the ultrasound, and we hope to get that here in the next couple of months,” she says.

The S.C. EMS Association chose Fabiano for the Medical Director of the Year award partly because of her efforts to expand the emergency transport service’s resources, but also because she pays close attention to EMS patient care. Fabiano has even studied to earn an EMT basic certification.

Fabiano says she was happily surprised by the award, but is especially pleased her staff received the agency honor: “They make my job easy,” she says. “They make it easy for me to be a leader. They really do.” 

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