St. David's hoping to save lives all over state with fixed-wing air ambulance

In the hangar of the Austin Executive Airport is a King Air 90 twin turbo-prop aircraft.  St. David's Healthcare has been using the air ambulance for about a year.

"We're doing about 8 to 10 flights a month and it's been a great start for us.  We see the program growing," said Brett Steffen with St. David's.

Patients in rural towns like San Angelo and Abilene often don't have access to the sort of clinical expertise they need.

The air ambulance gives those patients a smooth ride to Austin.

Steffen says the goal is to save lives of patients120 miles away and further.

"We had a patient who needed services at one of our high risk obstetric facilities and we needed to prolong her pregnancy long enough so the baby could survive after birth.  And so being able to get that patient here, get her in front of the clinicians that specialize in that, we're able to have a positive outcome for both the mother and her child," Steffen said.

"If we don't get access to care to these patients very quickly it could mean the difference between life and death," said Dr. Mazin Foteh, a vascular surgeon with Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgeons and Heart Hospital of Austin.

Foteh recently treated 2 patients from Brownsville.  Both got here on the plane.

One of the Brownsville patients was in danger of losing his leg.  so his doctor asked for help.

“The gentleman called me and he knew me from a prior experience and said 'hey is there any way you could help this guy out?' and our marketing director over here at the Heart Hospital  made me aware of the ability to use the plane so we got on the phone and the aircraft was available.  We flew down there, picked him up and turnaround time was somewhere around 3 and a half hours," Foteh said.

Foteh says he operated on him soon after he got here and saved the man's leg.

"It's going to save lives because these are folks who simply can't get to centers of excellence very quickly and again this is obviously going to be the way that we're going to be able to reach those patients as well," Foteh said.