LifeStar Air Ambulance Celebrates 35 Years of Service


Program Impacts Thousands of Lives, Providing Lifesaving Services in the Region 

Joliet, IL – Sept. 12, 2023 – As a trusted emergency air medical provider serving the greater Chicago region for more than 35 years, LifeStar celebrated the monumental milestone with an open house public event on Sunday, Sept. 10. Community members, neighboring partners, and crew members joined the festivities at the LifeStar hangar in Joliet.  

“We are here because of the people we serve. LifeStar provides lifesaving care, giving thousands of people more tomorrows and more time with family and friends,” said LifeStar Clinical Base Lead and Flight Nurse Liesl Esposito, who has been with the Life Star program for almost a decade. “We were thrilled to be able to share our anniversary with the community.” 

LifeStar began as a hospital-based program in 1988 based out of Loyola University Medical Center. Air Methods, the nation’s leading air medical service provider, acquired LifeStar in 2007 and was amended to become a community-based program. That same year, the base relocated to Joliet to centrally locate and better serve the Illinois and Indiana region making it a more efficient, critical resource for surrounding communities.  

The LifeStar team provides support to first responders and hospitals, offering the community critical care 24/7/365 and responding to emergency medical and trauma events including heart attacks and strokes, burns, and other critical ailments and incidents—essentially serving as a flying intensive care unit. One emergency medical service (EMS) associate has a unique perspective of what it’s like to not only be a LifeStar partner but also as a patient, needing LifeStar’s critical care service.  

In November 2018, Coal City Fire Chief James Seerup experienced severe abdominal pains that landed him in Morris Hospital. Needing higher level care, the LifeStar crew responded to the call and provided an interfacility transfer to Loyola University Medical Center. At Loyola, the medical team diagnosed Seerup with having an aneurysm.  

“My biggest takeaway, not as a Chief but as a patient, was my relief on how amazing the crew was to put my family at ease,” said Seerup. “The crew gave my wife their phone numbers and provided her updates on how I was doing and where I landed. Putting a family at ease is huge.”  

Over the past three and a half decades, the LifeStar team has developed deep-rooted relationships with EMS partners and healthcare providers, lending to a seamless approach for patient care.  

“We are so pleased with our patient-care relationship with LifeStar and the Air Methods team,” said Ascension Saint Mary’s Director of Trauma and Emergency Operations Kevin Bernard. “What a great pleasure, working as a team to ensure our community receives the best air transport service available when patient acuity and time are of the essence.”  

The LifeStar flight team — a small but mighty crew consisting of a pilot, nurse, and paramedic — receives annual state-of-the-art specialty training. Pilots are trained using Level D Full Flight Simulators, the highest fidelity flight simulator approved by the Federal Aviation Administration, representing the most sophisticated and accurate simulators used by most commercial airlines. Clinicians receive hands-on training through Air Methods Ascend, an in-person and online training program that allows clinicians to perform at the top of their licensure. Ascend is also available to medical personnel across the country.  

Additionally, the LifeStar team achieved the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems (CAMTS) and carries the critical resources needed to provide ICU-level care while in flight. Equipped with industry-leading equipment and medical devices, the team carries and can administer blood and/or plasma in flight, provide advanced airway intervention; cardiac and blood flow monitoring; ventilator management; medication administration and titration – monitoring potential side effects; and other advanced surgical procedures. 

“Over the years, I’ve interacted with many phenomenal individuals from nurses, medics, pilots, mechanics, dispatchers, and other support staff. Their efforts on behalf of the patients and communities they served were always patient and safety-centered,” said Mark Cichon, Loyola University Medical Center physician, professor, and chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine, who has been LifeStar’s Medical Director of Aeromedical Services for more than 20 years. “Many individuals are enjoying their families today because of this expertise. There are many ways to describe this dedication: passion for their profession, compassion for their patients, and professionalism for this work.” 

Air Methods is committed to providing affordable air medical service to all who need it. They are in-network with most major health insurance providers, including Blue Cross Blue Shield, United Healthcare, Aetna, Humana, and many others. Additionally, the patient advocacy program works with all patients, regardless of insurance, to ensure affordability.