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Teammate’s mother saved by air medical, blood: nearly 7,000 units of platelets are needed daily in the U.S.

Jan 19, 2018

As a DPL team manager who oversees transfers for nine hospitals, Chad Dilsaver is used to dealing with life and death situations every day. But when his own mother required emergency air medical transport, he gained a whole new perspective on the crucial services that provide patients with “another tomorrow.”

It all began November 17, 2017, when Chad received a call from his brother. His mother, Vickie, was unable to get out of bed so she was being taken to an ER in the small town (population: 2,000) of Grant, Nebraska. After evaluating her, the medical staff determined that she needed more care than they could provide, and she was transferred to Great Plains Health in North Platte.

Flight TEAM

Due to HIPAA rules, Chad was unable to be involved with the call, but he notified his supervisor and team that his mother’s name might come up. He then left to join her at Great Plains Health.

When Chad got to the hospital, he was told that her platelet levels were extremely low and she was having difficulty breathing. This news was hard for Chad and his family to comprehend. Vickie had always been healthy and was still working 40 hours a week. Yet suddenly, she was critically ill and fighting for her life.

The hospital began giving Vickie platelets but on the morning of November 18, they found they had run out. With little time to spare, the decision was made to transfer her to Brian Hospital in Lincoln, Nebraska, which was better equipped to handle her medical needs. Prior to transport she was intubated, a procedure that required her to be put under sedation.

Chad Dilsaver- Vickie Dilsaver

Vickie was flown by Great Plains Air on a fixed-wing from North Platte to Lincoln. Chad’s father, Tom, was able to accompany her on the flight and was comforted that he knew the flight nurse, Deb McClung.

When Vickie arrived, the ER did a spinal tap and hit an abscess at the bottom of her spine. She was sent to a neurosurgeon to have emergency spinal evacuation surgery and that’s when they got the diagnosis: MSSA, not resistant to antibiotics.

The infection had settled into the bottom of her spine as well as her wrists, one foot and an elbow, causing septic joints. She had surgery on her joints, but this was just the beginning of her ordeal. While intubated, she developed pneumonia. She also had multiple blood transfusions, went into acute kidney failure and contracted meningitis.

For seven days, Vickie remained unconscious. Fearing she would wake up and not know what was going on, her family took shifts staying by her side. They played music and talked to her, even though she was unresponsive.

When Vickie finally opened her eyes, the family was overjoyed. “It was the coolest moment I’ve ever experienced,” Chad said. She was able to squeeze their hands to answer questions; once for yes, nothing for no. “We were all so grateful. Lots of happy tears to know she was there.”

On day 19 of her recovery, the doctors put a cap on the trach so that Vickie could speak. While at work, Chad got a call from his dad, who said, “Your mom wants to talk to you.”

“Hi, Chad,” Vickie said. “I love you and I want to see you soon.”
Tom Vickie Dilsaver--

The medical staff explained that while the sprint to save her life was over, Vickie was now on the marathon to recovery. With countless hours of occupational, speech and physical therapy, Vickie was finally able to stand for the first time – 65 days after entering the hospital – and she is well on the way to being able to walk again.

Reflecting on his family’s ordeal, Chad said, “It’s interesting how this process came full circle. I work with all these patients, and this really opened my eyes to what the patients are dealing with on the other end. I knew it was important what we did, but when it’s a close family member, it really changes your perspective on a lot of things.”

Throughout his mother’s recovery, Chad has been open with his whole team and sent them updates on her progress. When talking with teammates, he stresses the importance of what Air Methods does. He encourages them to remember that “this is someone’s mother, child, close family member.”

Chad is grateful the vital role that air medical played in Vickie’s survival and understands how important the service is to other families. “If it wasn’t for the speedy transfer and the help of DPL and Great Plaines Air to get her to the next hospital, I don’t know that she would still be here,” he said. “I’m so glad we have this business.” 

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