Last week’s visit to the Dixon Public Safety Building by a medical transport helicopter and crew is a reminder of how valuable the service is during a health emergency.
It takes only 20 minutes for the REACT helicopter to fly from Dixon to Rockford.
Even with sirens blaring and lights flashing, a regular ambulance couldn’t come close to that time.
In an emergency, such rapid transport can mean the difference between life and death.
The REACT helicopter, operated by Rockford Health System, functions like an airborne emergency room. It can land at emergency injury scenes so victims can be whisked in minutes to waiting doctors and nurses. It performs critical care transports from regional hospitals to Rockford, benefiting adults, children, high-risk newborns and maternal emergencies.
Paramedics from the Dixon Fire Department did training last week with the helicopter crew to become better acquainted with landing zone preparations and medical helicopter procedures.
They also learned what to do if they ever have to respond to a helicopter crash.
That scenario, unfortunately, is not an academic exercise.
On Dec. 10, 2012, a REACT helicopter, en route from Rockford to Mendota, crashed in eastern Lee County near Compton during an emergency flight.
Its three occupants – pilot Andy Olesen and flight nurses Jim Dillow and Karen Hollis – were killed.
Less an 2 months later, Rockford Health System had its REACT program airborne once more with a temporary aircraft. A permanent helicopter began flying in June 2013, equipped with the latest medical equipment and technology – and decorated with three stars, symbolizing the lost crew.
Covering northern Illinois, southern Wisconsin and eastern Iowa, the REACT helicopter flies about two missions a day.
Our region is fortunate to have such a life-saving service available.
Kudos to the brave pilots and medical personnel who take to the air and risk their lives to serve others.