For many employees at STARS, Samuel Gross’s recovery from a near drowning in April 2009 is unforgettable. The eight year old fell into swollen creek while playing and was swept into a culvert on the Westroc Hutterite colony near Portage La Prairie during spring flooding. Once his playmates located Samuel and pulled him from the fast-moving water, a quick-thinking cousin began CPR, but 20 minutes had passed and Samuel appeared lifeless. Although paramedics were en route, the closest hospital was a two-hour drive.

Thankfully, STARS had arrived in Manitoba days earlier to assist with spring flooding, so a helicopter was nearby and available. Samuel was transported to Winnipeg’s Health Sciences Centre in critical condition. His parents kept a vigil for 13 days while the boy lay in a coma. On April 22 Samuel awoke. It was a mission paramedic Dave Evans won’t forget. “The chain of survival worked seamlessly to ensure nobody gave up on Samuel.”

In the spring of 2013, staff and crew in Winnipeg hosted Samuel and his large, grateful family. There was barely a dry eye in the hangar as Samuel was reunited with the four crew members who helped save his life that day. In addition to bringing lunch, coffee and sweets, Samuel and his family presented the crew and staff custom made helicopter key chains and personalized pens. “It was the least we could do,” said Robert Gross, Samuel’s father. “I think about almost losing Samuel every single day. STARS saved my son and that means so much to me. I feel like they are part of our lives.” For Samuel, seeing the helicopter and meeting his crew was important. “I wanted to be able to look at them and say thank you for saving my life,” said Samuel, who is now 15 years old.

For Winnipeg’s former base director Jon Gogan – one of the pilots during Samuel’s flight – visiting with the boy, his parents and siblings made for an emotional day. “The last time I saw Samuel I was performing CPR while the crew drew up additional drugs to help him,” said Gogan. “We don’t often know how the patients are doing after we transport them, so we are humbled and honoured every time we are reunited.”

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