BANGOR, Maine — Ten years ago, angels appeared in the skies over Maine.
The flight crews of LifeFlight of Maine have been on hand for a decade to help Mainers in emergency medical situations, and in that time have transported more than 8,400 people who might not have lived without them, said Tom Judge, LifeFlight executive director.
Judge spoke Saturday to a gathering of residents, former patients and hospital dignitaries at an anniversary celebration in a parking lot at Eastern Maine Medical Center, home base to one of the state’s two LifeFlight helicopters. The other helicopter is based at the Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, where a similar celebration was held on Friday.
More than 30 LifeFlight pilots, nurses and paramedics, dressed in their green uniforms, lined the edge of the gathering in Bangor, and a green- and gold-striped helicopter was parked in the background.
“Twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year … we’ll show up,” Judge said. “Our promise is: if you call us, we will come.”
In the last week alone, flight crews have logged more than 30,000 miles and have “seen over 30 people,” he said.
Two former patients were on hand during the presentation to tell their stories about how LifeFlight services changed their lives. One was an Old Town woman who was pregnant with twins when she was airlifted to Portland for an emergency cesarean section that saved her two infant boys; and the other was a St. Albans man who spoke about how LifeFlight save his nearly severed arm.
Gov. John Baldacci also was on hand to congratulate the air medical program, and announced that the national Association of Air Medical Services has recognized LifeFlight of Maine as this year’s Program of the Year.
“LifeFlight of Maine is the top air medical program [selected] out of 300 air services” nationwide, the governor said.
For the flight crews, the job is both rewarding and challenging, Paramedic Carl Zenk said on Saturday, while young children climbed in and out of the helicopter he uses to save people’s lives.
“It’s the best job in the world,” he said. “It’s tough, but at the same time it’s very rewarding.”
Zenk, who is based in Bangor and who has 16 years experience as an air medic and two with LifeFlight of Maine, has flown all over the state to help save people’s lives.
He’s one of 38 nurses and paramedics who fly with 10 different pilots in the program.