You don’t want to need them, but when you do need them you’re glad they’re there. The men and women of the Air Evac Life Team are dedicated professionals who truly love what they do and care about the people they treat.
In Brownwood since 2002, Air Evac Life Team is an air ambulance service founded in 1985 in Missouri. The goal was to bring the resources of an air ambulance that were primarily found in big cities into rural areas.
The Brownwood base is one of 130 across 15 states, and it serves Brown County and every county that it touches. Overseen locally by Bobby Brinson, the crew consists of four teams, each with a pilot, a nurse, and a paramedic.
Jim Schocke is one of several pilots employed locally by Air Evac, and started with the company three years ago. Prior to working for Air Evac he spent “21 years in the military and another 8 years contracting.”
Flight Nurse Mark Dent, who has been with the company since they started in Brownwood, has had a career in medicine since the early 90’s, working at Parkland in Dallas, the Burn Center in Lubbock and at Brownwood Regional Medical Center
Mandy McCoury, the paramedic for this particular team, has worked in emergency medicine “in Llano County, and as a paramedic and first responder in San Saba County.”
Schocke says there is no such thing as a garden variety call for the team. “They fall into two flavors, a transfer from one facility to another and a scene call. And that’s where the similarities end. No transfers are the same and no scene calls are the same.”
McCoury says the team can be called out for almost anything. “We get called out for heart attacks, strokes, traffic accidents, any patient that needs specialty care that their local hospital can’t handle that’s when they call us.”
Dent says certain times of year can be busier than others. “It’s fixing to be hunting season, so we typically get a couple hunting accidents as well as ATV accidents.” Other accidents that may increase during this time include falls from tree stands, gunshot wounds or stabbings.
A desire to help is prevalent in every member of the team interviewed for this article, and is also commonplace among the company’s other employees. Each member of the three person flight team said numerous times that they just want to make sure their patients receive the best care possible for their situation.
The team flies in a Bell 206L4, acquired new in 2012. The ship is named Amber after flight paramedic Amber Lowery, who was killed in 2013. It is stored in a hangar across the street from Brownwood Regional Medical Center, ready to go at a moments notice.
The paramedic crews work 24 hour shifts, pilots work 12 hour shifts. Pilot shift hours are closely regulated by the FAA and cannot exceed certain limits for safety sake. Each shift, pilot or paramedic, consists of paperwork and mandatory rest times when the team is not on a call.
The crews of Air Evac Life Team are always trying to be the best they possibly can, so that when the call does come in, they are as prepared for it as they are able.