Jean-François Bussieres, a Type 1 diabetic since childhood, was suffering from ketoacidosis, a lifethreatening complication of the disease, when his wife returned home and found him unconscious.

He had been without insulin for 24 hours and was incoherent. Not long after she called 911, local paramedics and firefighters arrived to rush him to a nearby rural hospital.

A regular blood sugar score averages about seven for a Type 1 diabetic: Bussieres’ was 88. The doctor on duty knew right away that this patient needed help from an urgent care centre and requested STARS immediately.

While our flight team of a transport physician, paramedic and nurse provided care in the back of the helicopter, our pilots carried Bussieres to tertiary care.

“He was extremely unwell,” said STARS flight nurse Kellie Ann Vogelaar. “His vital organs, including his heart and brain, were not working properly.”

To stabilize him, our crew administered fluids and medication to help with his life-threateningly low blood pressure.

Time, tools and talent collided to get Bussieres to an intensive care unit in time for another medical team to help save his life.

After being treated in hospital, Bussieres was told how close he’d come to death.

“The endocrinologist said it was a question of minutes — minutes which I count in seconds,” he said. “Everybody did their job to the letter, from 911 to the paramedics. Every second counted, but I know for sure that if there was no air ambulance, if there was no STARS, I wouldn’t be here today.”

He credits the talented crew with keeping him alive during the flight.

“It’s not just about getting from Point A to Point B, it is also about the level of help that I received the whole way through.”

Roughly half of our patients are carried and cared for by STARS for trauma-related injuries such as from a fall, a motor-vehicle collision, a recreational incident or drowning, for instance. The rest are medical, such as heart attacks, strokes or obstetric in nature and typically require a transfer from a rural or remote medical facility to a critical care or trauma centre in a major city.

“When people hear that I’m a patient who survived, I’m often asked if I was in an accident,” said Bussieres. “People know that the helicopter goes to the backcountry or lands at the scene of an accident, but there are so many medical situations where time is of the essence, and I was one of them.”

Since his mission and recovery, Bussieres has visited STARS to meet his crew and he gives back every chance he gets. He is grateful for other allies who do the same.

“For me, supporting STARS makes me remember just how close I came. Somebody paid it forward to me for that helicopter to be in the air, and the more I can support STARS, the more I know I can help others in the future.”

For crew members like Vogelaar, reunions with former patients are rewarding.

“We are always so grateful when our patients come back to meet us,” she said. “I am so blessed to be able to do this job. I love being able to make a difference in someone’s life.”

We couldn’t have been there for this patient without allies like you, who put the most advanced tools in our hands. You help ensure our crews receive top training and you put time on the side of critically ill patients like Bussieres.

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