There's a new form of emergency transportation in south Georgia. A paramedic rescue helicopter has a new home at Valdosta Regional Airport. This is the first helicopter of its kind to permanently serve the Valdosta region.
At any given moment this team of paramedics and pilots have to drop everything to go save the injured. They're on call 24/7 and live on site at the Valdosta Regional Airport.
Their company Air Methods made Valdosta its new home. Air Methods is known as the most experienced air medical operator in the industry. They've brought 21 new jobs to Valdosta including trauma nurses, pilots, and mechanics.
"Personally I think its been needed for years here," said south Georgia native Billy Houston who has worked on the ground for years as a paramedic. He says having air rescue as an option for first responders is huge in south Georgia. And now he's providing that care working as a flight paramedic.
"Me speaking for ground EMS, to have somebody in the air that can come transport patients, that's a big deal, a real big deal," said Houston.
The guys say giving patients a better shot at surviving far outweighs the risks that come along with the job.
"When dealing with aviation you're always taking a risk when going up in the air but the idea is to calculate those risks and accomplish the mission as safe as possible," said pilot, Zack Taylor.
And these guys have the best state-of-the-art equipment to keep their patients alive before they get to the hospital.
Even though they can only pick up one patient at a time, typically that patient is in critical condition; they have the ability to help those patients breath using a ventilator.
Flight paramedic, Joe Cowart, explained another piece of equipment, "this is our cardiac monitor, this is the latest and greatest technology."
As for the patients, they ride along on a removable stretcher.
And with so many rural communities in south Georgia, sometimes it can take up to 45 minutes for an ambulance to arrive. The air rescue team can cut that time in half.