Air Evac nurse helps critically ill patients

Published 8:33 pm Wednesday, January 3, 2018

In her almost seven years as the flight nurse for the Air Evac Lifeteam 77 in Troup County, Kelly Gleason has completed more than 450 flights for the team. Gleason always wanted to be a flight nurse and has served with the local Air Evac Lifeteam since 2011.

“We do a lot of critical care and I always like helping people at their worst, taking care of the sickest patients,” Gleason said.

Gleason is also the base clinical lead where she coordinates outreach certification for base members and educates other nurses.

The flight nurse works alongside a paramedic and the pilot when evacuating people to hospitals.

“Once we lift [from our station], we get either a report from a ground unit, like a fire department or an ambulance will call us, or a hospital will call us. Once we lift and start heading there, we get a report from them on what is going on with the patient and pretty much at that point we start anticipating what will be needed (for the patient),” Gleason said. “When we land, we reassess the patient and determine what we think is going on with them starting in order of priorities. A lot of what we do is assessment and reassessment. If we do anything with a patient, we check to see what it did and see what we need to do further. We always run with a pilot, a nurse and a paramedic.”

Gleason said she and the paramedics she works with on flights complement each other.

“We both really do the same thing, so it’s like two heads are better than one. You’re never by yourself and you have ideas to bounce off of, and it’s really interesting because on a scene call, the paramedic has a certain set of skills and experience, and I bring my own,” she said. “We put them together, and it really is such a neat dynamic because we can figure anything out together, and if we can’t, there’s always the doctor we can call.”

The flight nurse said the main difference between what she does now and what she did at a hospital is is the limited space in the helicopter.

“One of the biggest things to get used to was the space. It’s just very cramped. It’s really tight in there,” Gleason said. “Like we tell our new employees, they know how to be a nurse or paramedic, we’re not here to teach them that. We’re here to teach them how to do it in a helicopter.”

Gleason said she likes the team’s relationship with LaGrange’s Fire and Emergency Medical services.

“We have such a good working relationship with the fire and EMS here. There’s just such camaraderie between us and them, I just really enjoyed the working relationships because we teach a lot of classes with them,” she said. “We do a lot of things outside of direct flights with them. Same thing with the hospital too, all the relationships we’ve established.”

Downtown LaGrange is one of Gleason’s favorite things about the city.

“I think LaGrange is beautiful. I love the square and all the little shops up there,” Gleason said.

Outside of work, Gleason loves fishing with her children, Garrett, Hayden and Kasie. She also likes to garden.

“[My garden is] not epic or anything, but it’s fun, and it keeps me busy and teaches my kids where stuff comes from,” she said.

Gleason said she loves teaching and doing outreach with her position.

“We just [taught] CPR for a bunch of 911 dispatchers, or we do it for a lot of different agencies. We do it for a lot of churches or different organizations,” she said. “I love to teach. I love to help people learn, love to see that lightbulb go on.”

Besides saving critically ill patients, Gleason joked she also likes seeing the trees and fireworks from the helicopter. She also loves working with the team.

“This is family we have here,” Gleason said. “We all get along pretty well and are in it for the same purpose. (I’m) pretty blessed.”