IMPERIAL — Imperial Valley College and REACH Air Medical Services simulated the transport of emergency patients to helicopters Wednesday afternoon on IVC’s football field.
Students of nursing, emergency medical services, firefighter academies, and their professors gathered around the track and field several yards behind the flight’s landing area and anticipated the arrival of the first of two REACH helicopters, which landed around 1:20 p.m.
Once the helicopter landed, first responders — emergency medical teams who respond at the site of an accident — on cue carried a patient by stretcher toward the air ambulance; its rotor blades kept on spinning, ready to lift off and transport the patient to a hospital. However, the helicopter did not depart. Instead, the pilot turned off the engine to conclude the simulated transport.
Several minutes later, another REACH helicopter circled above the clear blue sky and landed at the other end of the football field to conduct a second simulation.
Once the rotor blades stopped spinning, students and faculty could approach both helicopters and question the flight nurses and pilots.
“Today was our first nursing club guest speaker event,” said Daniel Ortiz Jr., simulations coordinator and nursing instructor, who took his 80 nursing students, all wearing red shirts, to the field.
Ortiz had invited IVC nursing alumni Sergio Cardenas to speak to the students about his experience as a flight nurse. According to Ortiz, Cardenas responded, “Can we land a helicopter at IVC?”
In addition to giving a presentation, Cardenas brought two helicopters to the college campus. His message: “Inspire current students and current providers.”
“I thought that [Cardenas’ idea] would really be a great kickoff for our event and for our students ... That evolved to include not only our nursing students but also our EMT students, fire academy students, and law enforcement contacts,” said Ortiz.
Fifty other students being trained to become emergency first responders also joined in the simulation.
One of the students participating in the demonstration as a victim was Elisa Garcia, a fourth-semester nursing student.
“It was really eye-opening to see everything that they have to do and the space that they have to work with. I didn’t realize how small a helicopter was. They had to be skilled, efficient, and they had to be on top of it,” said Garcia.
Before the simulation, Garcia said she envisioned one day becoming an emergency room nurse. But after today’s experience, she is leaning toward a career as a flight nurse.
“It is very exciting. It is the perfect job for me. We get to help people at their most critical time, get to transfer them to a higher level of care when they need specialty services,” said Melissa Reiman, a flight nurse with REACH Air Medical Services in Brawley for the past three years.
With 15 years of emergency experience, Reiman was ready to take care of her patients. On her vest were multiple pockets, each one with a specific tool: work phone, tourniquet, trauma scissors, syringes, flashlights, radio, gloves, and nausea medication to keep patients from getting motion sick.
Even though she is from the Los Angeles area, Reiman prefers to work in the Imperial Valley and she enjoys working with her colleagues. “They always make me laugh,” Reiman said with a smile on her face.
And while the work is rewarding, helping trauma patients can take its toll. Reiman remembered a car crash case involving five children and two adults. It was chaotic, but her team was able to transport them for treatment and they did well.
“In this line of work, you develop a little bit of detachment where you are able to separate home from work life,” said Reiman. However, there are cases that touch you deep inside. When that happens Reiman said, “It is best to share the experience with your co-workers, family, and not bottle it up inside. You are able to process it when you share with people who understand you and love you, and who help you work through hard times,” said Reiman.
David Kalvelage, a lead pilot with REACH in Brawley, came with Reiman for the transport simulation. Having worked with flight nurses for the past two years, Kalvelage commented on them.
“They are a fantastic group of people. They are so dedicated to taking care of the patient and have the right thing done for each person,” said Kalvelage. “They are willing to work with me so that we can get everything done safely around helicopters and get the patient where they need to be.”