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Flight For Life Northern Illinois

Flight For Live provides high-tech, dedicated medical support.

For more than 20 years, McHenry County has been serviced with state-of-the-art medical transport services through the Flight For Life-Northern Illinois program.

Created in 1987, the concept of bringing helicopter medical transport was the byproduct of some visionary thinking. The result—over two decades—has been hundreds of lives that have been saved and the creation of a transport system for the severely injured and ill to advanced medical service facilities in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin.

The implementation of air medical transport and its aggressive transport and medical support capabilities are in part an evolution of MASH units, which operated initially during the Korean and Vietnam wars. So much success was derived from the use of airborne medical personnel that many health-care facilities throughout the world began to adopt the same principles.

Today, there are more than 180 air medical transport programs in the United States, including Flight For Life-Northern Illinois and its affiliate Flight For Life-Milwaukee. While primarily hospital-based, some private air medical units also provide support in rural areas where advanced medical care is not readily accessible within the air transport system.

Flight For Life-Northern Illinois has enjoyed remarkable success over its 20 years, completing 18,000 successful flights and ultimately saving hundreds of lives. Highly trained and talented medical crews, including a flight nurse and a flight paramedic, augment a medical control capability that provides a high level of trauma, cardiac and other related transport support as well as in-field medical services.

Throughout southern Wisconsin and the Chicago area, Flight For Life-Northern Illinois works in concert with a number of health care facilities and fire departments to provide support, which has created an excellent reputation due to numerous successful patient outcomes over the past two decades.

Many consider Dr. George Gallant, medical director of the emergency department at Northern Illinois Medical Center/Centegra, along with Bill Riggs, Centegra’s director of safety, and the late Barb Hess to be critical components in the evolution of Flight For Life-Northern Illinois.

While the concept of air medical transport to the Chicago area was not unheard of, the introduction of the then Milwaukee Flight For Life program to McHenry and Lake counties and southern Wisconsin was a logical extension.

Over the years, more than 25 flight nurses and 30 flight paramedics have participated and contributed to flying 10,000 patients. Positive outcomes of some of the most severely injured or ill transported patients became an enhancement of the entire medical program in northern Illinois and, ultimately, the establishment of the outstanding reputation that the “Flight program” has today.

Representative of this is Crystal Lake resident Kurt Humm and his wife, Christi, who are the parents of three appreciative daughters (Kyli, Taylor and Mackenzi). Humm, a military pilot and commercial airline pilot for American Airlines, was caught off guard with a potentially lethal aortic aneurysm that required not only aggressive medical intervention but also transport to a facility that would be able to provide very sophisticated medical procedures.

Today, Humm is very much alive and enjoying the benefits of the support that was provided by the Flight For Life-Northern Illinois program. He has become a strong, outspoken advocate of his life-saving experience with the Flight For Life program.

“Quite simply, I would not be here today if not for the intervention, the help and the support by Flight For Life,” said Humm. “My three daughters, my wife and my family all realize why the Flight For Life program and the crew and all that it encompasses have become such an important part of my life.”

The complexity of air medical aircraft and aggressive training and safety support programs have continued to provide an uninterrupted level of service to the Chicago area and parts of northern Indiana and southern/central Wisconsin. The evolution of the program and all that it stands for is further accentuated by the evolution of aircraft that have been introduced into the Flight For Life system.

The results speak for themselves. Humm is a living, active testimony to the flight program that has created a continual resource and a source of confidence for all residents of McHenry County.

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