(WIVB) – Forty years ago, Mercy Flight became the first air ambulance service in New York State. Its team is celebrating in a big way this weekend, with the annual Bash – a fatigue-themed party to support its operations.
Dave Greber will be the emcee of this year’s event, and he took a spin around Buffalo to see what makes Mercy Flight so special.
Most of Mercy Flight’s trips are the difference between life and death.
“These people are generally in incredible danger. Whether it be a medical problem or a car accident. So they need us as quickly as possible,” said Adam White, chief flight paramedic for Mercy Flight.
White says the process from call to response to takeoff has to be less than 10 minutes. They can be anywhere in WNY, in just a few minutes more.
“Our ability to get those patients to where they need to be is incredibly important,” White said. “Especially when you consider heart attacks, strokes and trauma are all really time dependent. The faster you can get to definitive care, the better outcomes these patients are going to have. And we do it faster than anybody else.”
Mercy Flight has four helicopters in its fleet – one for each base in Buffalo, Olean and Genesee County.
Together they respond to more than 1,200 calls a year in the region, and they use three fixed-wing aircraft for dozens of medical transports across the country.
But Mercy Flight’s capabilities go well beyond the speed of an airborne ambulance service.
Jennifer Crotty is a chief flight nurse.
“We have critical care teams that you might not find in an ambulance, even in a volunteer service,” Crotty said. “We can get you there faster, and we can do a lot when we’re transporting you.”
What many don’t know is Mercy Flight is a non-profit service, started in 1981 with the intention of being always independent and always at the ready, and never forcing its patients into financial hardship.
That’s why Saturday’s Bash is so important, beyond the military fatigues and refreshments and live music, the money raised goes directly to operations, which includes ensuring patients don’t suffer financially, just because they needed its services.
“That money goes to operations for us and forgiveness of patient debt,” White said. “There are other services out there that take patients to collections. And we don’t do that.”
You can find tickets here.
Dave Greber is an award-winning anchor and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2015. See more of his work here.