Flight for Life survivors encouraged to share life-saving memories

Lake County residents and first-responders who have benefitted from the services of Flight for Life are invited to share memories as the agency prepares for a series of events commemorating its 30th anniversary next month.

In the case of Flight for Life — McHenry Base, which responds to medical emergencies in northeastern Illinois, a ceremony is planned at 3 p.m. Sept. 28 at McHenry County College, according to Public Information Officer Tammy Chatman.

“Each of our three bases are going to have their own celebration for their local patients in their service area,” Chatman said on Friday, Aug. 22. “So in McHenry, it’ll be our hospital folks, firefighters, EMS, law enforcement, dispatch — all those folks that are part of our team that plays a role in the survival of patients.”

Chatman added that the ceremony will include an hour-long program highlighting the history of the helicopter/medical transport service, and the afternoon will also offer a chance for one-time patients to offer their stories publicly if they choose.

“Part of it will be former patients — if they are interested — to stand up and share whatever they want to share,” said Chatman, adding that the invitation is extended “if they just want to say ‘thank you’ or if they want to say, ‘This is where I am now.’”

The family of Flight for Life’s first transported patient in January 1984 is planning to attend even though she passed away in 2007.

“Even if the patient didn’t survive, the family is welcome to come, because not all did,” Chatman said.

Along with McHenry, Flight for Life also operates bases in Fond du Lac, Wis., and at its headquarters in Waukesha. Commemorative events are planned in each of the communities served.

Former patients, crew and staff interested in participating can send an email to FFL30th@mrmcffl.org or call (414) 778-5435 to provide their name, phone number, mailing address and/or email address. Former patients are asked to include the month and year of their transport, if available.

The agency’s website also has a new patient-sharing blog at www.flightforlifestories.org, which provides an opportunity for any of the 33,000 people served by Flight for Life over the past three decades to write an account of their experience.

At next month’s ceremony, Chatman said honor guards are scheduled to be on hand from Waukegan and Lake County, along with other agencies in Illinois and southeast Wisconsin, but the in-person sharing of stories is expected to be a highlight.

“We’ll have former staff there and recognize the job they do,” Chatman said, “but the most important part will be [seeing] the people who are the culmination of all our efforts.”

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