ROANOKE, Va. – While many are hustling to get out of the hurricane zone, others are headed right toward it to offer help. Carilion Clinic's Life-Guard 10 traveled to Sarasota, Florida Monday to be ready to assist FEMA however they can.
The first order of business was getting to Florida ahead of the storm. This is the second time Life-Guard has flown directly toward a hurricane zone. Last time they played a lot of backup and didn't actually transport any patients, but this time around they're ready for whatever they need to do.
Life-Guard 10 lifted from Roanoke Monday morning on a mission and program director Susan Rivers has watched her team closely ever since they left.
"This is one of the very limited opportunities that we get to extend our service beyond that of our local communities," Rivers said.
Hurricane Dorian slammed the Bahamas and has Florida in its sights. But Dorian isn't the only one barreling toward the sunshine state.
We talked with Life-Guard chief flight paramedic Robert Youther during a fuel stop in Georgia as Life-Guard headed south. While others are fleeing, they're heading straight in.
"It's something that I've always enjoyed doing, it's something that's in my blood, it's something that's in my soul," Youther said. "It's just something I get enjoyment out of, helping other people and knowing that I've made a difference in someone else's life."
Life-Guard sent two flight nurses, two flight paramedics and two pilots all with Southwest Virginia ties to work with FEMA. The crew will stand by ready to transport patients, equipment, or whatever else disaster officials need as long as its safe to fly.
"If Virginia was in the same situation, I know Florida would send people to help us," Youther said. "It's just part of being an American and being able to help your countrymen in times of need."
Back at home, other Life-Guard crews will handle the calls and there's even an extra helicopter on standby if local crews need it. And while they help others in Florida, they're actually training to help us better too.
"They're high risk, worst case scenarios with very limited resources," Rivers said "So this just helps us when we do come back to the community, to be more prepared than ever."
The Life-Guard crew is hunkered down for the night and getting rest before the storm picks up. They join other air ambulance crews from across the country standing by, ready to deploy when called upon.