Former Air Methods Patient Pays It Forward Becoming a LifeNet Flight Nurse


SAFFORD, AZ – May 8, 2023 – While it may feel routine to commemorate Nurses Week May 6 – 12 every year, for one Air Methods’ LifeNet Arizona flight nurse, it’s more than just a week-long holiday – it’s a personal celebration of life, a dose of gratitude, and an opportunity to pay it forward.

On February 14, 2009, Hilary Dowson was in an ATV accident near Yuma, AZ. Hitting a witch’s eye (a deep hole in the sand that varies in size), Dowson’s vehicle dropped into an 8-foot ditch causing her to faceplant on the ATV’s roll bar crushing Dowson’s face causing multiple facial fractures and various other injuries. Dowson’s professional background as a Fleet Marine Corpsman, knowing the ins and outs of providing emergency medical services, taught her that to survive trauma she needed to stay awake to keep her airway open until medical services arrived. Needing immediate critical care attention, Dowson was airlifted from the scene—a lift she received from Air Methods’ Tristate CareFlight crew.

“I remember I could see the helicopter in the sky, but I couldn’t hear it or feel the wind from their landing. It was clear I was in shock,” said Dowson. “They came in like rock stars from a spaceship. I remember their confidence in me, it put me at ease. As we were lifting off, I finally felt safe and ended up passing out.”

Dowson was transported to Yuma Regional Medical Center. Her injuries were so severe she was transported via fixed wing to Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton in California, which specializes in treating injuries from improvised explosive devices (IED) attacks. She was met with an initial 12-hour surgery, a traumatic brain injury, a week in the intensive care unit, 11 surgeries in total, and three years to make a full recovery.

With a traumatic brain injury, Dowson knew she needed to challenge and exercise her brain as part of the recovery process. She put herself through nursing school, and she believes that contributed to her overall healing. In January of this year, Dowson joined Air Methods as a flight nurse with the LifeNet program in Safford, AZ—coming full circle from being a patient 14 years ago.  

“It’s a vulnerable feeling being a patient. You’re essentially giving strangers your life and wellbeing, and you hope that they care,” said Dowson. “Now, I want to be that person that patients give their trust to because I know what it’s like to be in their position.”

Dowson never got a chance to meet or thank the flight crew, but they have always been in her thoughts throughout her recovery.

“I never thought I could be a flight nurse. Those types of people are rock stars who save the day,” said Dowson. “But I just got to a point where I said, ‘I’m gonna shoot my shot.’ And here I am, working alongside heroes.”

While nurses provide an everyday service, Dowson wants nurses and all flight clinicians to know their work matters.

“You have no idea the type of impact you have on someone. Our work happens so fast, and we never really know the outcome of our patients. I know firsthand the sacrifices our flight clinicians make, and I want them to know they make a difference,” Dowson said. “On behalf of all patients out there, let me be the example of the impact you have on a life. Those flight clinicians that day changed my entire career path and gave me a second chance at life. I’m re-paying them by doing the work as a flight nurse to impact someone else.”


About Air Methods

Air Methods ( is the nation’s leading air medical service, delivering lifesaving care to more than 100,000 people every year. With over 40 years of air medical experience, Air Methods is the preferred partner for hospitals and one of the largest community-based providers of air medical services. United Rotorcraft is the Company’s products division specializing in the design and manufacture of aeromedical and aerospace technology. Air Methods’ fleet of owned, leased, or maintained aircraft features more than 450 helicopters and fixed wing aircraft.

For interviews contact:                                               

Denisse Coffman
Vice President of Corporate Communications
Air Methods Corporation