05:49 PM

Safeguarding our guests

Written by Allison Meilicke, RN

When Barbara Sue Brodie and her family arrived in Glacier National Park, she had no idea that their vacation would include a stay at Kalispell Regional Medical Center (KRMC).

“We were on a hike in Two Medicine,” said Barbara Sue. “I started having a little bit of pain, and it was hot, and I had said to my daughter that I didn’t feel quite right. So we cut our hike short to wait for the boat and that’s the last I knew.”

Barbara Sue, her husband Brad, and daughters Sarah and Amanda, made their way back down the trail to the boat dock. Sarah notified park personnel, and within minutes two park rangers arrived. By this point, Barbara Sue had become unconscious. The park rangers gave her oxygen, administered CPR, and used an automated external defibrillator to deliver an electronic shock to the heart in an attempt to restore a normal rhythm.

Meanwhile, the A.L.E.R.T. helicopter was in route to transport Barbara Sue to KRMC. She arrived at the hospital emergency department in cardiogenic shock, a condition where the heart suddenly can’t pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. It is rare, but fatal if not treated immediately. Having rapid air medical transport available was vital to saving Barbara Sue Brodie’s life.

“Out of hospital cardiac arrests with shockable rhythm, survival is only 1 in 4,” saidInterventional Cardiologist Dr. Mayank Agrawal. “Patients who develop cardiogenic shock due to this condition, have even worse outcomes.”

Dr. Agrawal performed two PCIs (Percutaneous Coronary Interventions), and implanted a balloon pump for support. But Barbara Sue continued to decline. He then implanted an Impella® device (a small left ventricular assist device that pulls blood from the left ventricle through an inlet area near the tip and expels blood from the catheter into the ascending aorta).

This technology, and the expertise needed to implant it, is not widely available, so it was very fortunate for Barbara Sue that KRMC was equipped with both.

“I am incredibly grateful,” said Barbara Sue, “The fact that there was a helicopter that could come in and get me and then I could come to KRMC and have a doctor who has all the knowledge and skill to treat me. It’s incredible. It’s a miracle.”

Airlifting Barbara Sue Brodie from East Glacier to Kalispell Regional Medical Center was just one of 82 missions that the A.L.E.R.T. helicopter went on during the summer.

All of these flights were made possible because KRMC is flying a new Bell 407 helicopter. The Bell 407 helicopter that had served the Flathead community for the past 17 years had 105 days of down time for required maintenance in 2016. Therefore, KRMC needed a replacement Bell 407 to provide the reliable service our region has come to rely on.

Since 1975 the A.L.E.R.T. program has been a partnership between KRMC and the Flathead Valley. Thanks to the community’s generous support of this program, patients like Barbara Sue are able to return to our beautiful valley each summer.

Originally published in Montana Woman Magazine, January 2019.