Medical helicopter dedication
UNMH Chaplain Michelle Tatlock dedicates a new Lifeguard medical helicopter on May 10, 2016, as the flight crew celebrates.
Credit: Sara Mota

UNM Hospital’s Lifeguard Air Emergency Services, the first air medical flight program to transport critically injured or ill patients in New Mexico, launched its new helicopter service this month with the christening of its newest emergency medical transport aircraft – a state-of-the-art, specially equipped Agusta 119Kx Koala helicopter.

The helicopter, owned by SevenBar Aviation, is equipped with medical-crisis treatment capabilities – blood reserves, state-of-the-art ventilator and newly added ultrasound – for severe trauma, cardiac and high-risk obstetrics patients. These include patients requiring cardiac catheterization and interventional radiology, stroke and burn victims and neonatal intensive care patients. “In addition to the cutting-edge medical features, we’ve increased the safety of operations with a helicopter terrain awareness and traffic avoidance system, night vision goggle operation, and other modern avionic safety features,” says Douglas Dixon, MD, medical director for Lifeguard.

Lifeguard crews include specially trained nurses and paramedics who can begin advanced trauma treatment long before patients arrive to an emergency room or other facility. They also can access immediate medical direction online from UNM Hospital physicians. “Lifeguard is an extension of UNM Hospitals, so medical crews are trained to carry out advanced procedures using medical equipment not available from other flight programs,” said Margaret O'Donnell, director of Lifeguard Air Emergency Services.

Lifeguard and SevenBar Aviation have a long history, both with deep roots in New Mexico. SevenBar opened in 1947 on Albuquerque’s West Mesa, while Lifeguard was the first air medical flight program to begin transporting patients in New Mexico in 1983. They’ve since worked together to transport more than 43,000 UNMH patients over 18 million miles.

“This is a very exciting time for both Lifeguard and SevenBar Aviation,” said Wade Black, chairman and CEO of SevenBar Aviation. We are very proud and honored to have such a longstanding partnership with UNM Hospitals, as well as the people and communities they serve.”