It was a perfect Manitoba summer day, one meant for swimming and hanging out with lifelong friends. For Travis Antonio, that remarkable long weekend at Black Lake in Nopiming Provincial Park would end with the 20-year-old facing a catastrophic injury. Thankfully, STARS had just begun 24-hour service in Manitoba and Travis was the crew’s first night time mission.

“We were at the beach, jumping off cliffs for two hours. When it was time to leave, I decided I wanted to swim across the lake instead of walk, so I ran and jumped off the closest cliff. I don’t remember what happened next, but I was told I hit the rocks face first. I had a broken pallet and a big gash across my head. I floated to the top of the water and my friends pulled me to the beach. An off-duty paramedic helped stabilize me while we waited for STARS to arrive. I didn’t know it then, but I was paralyzed from the chest down.

With the closest major hospital a four-hour drive away in Winnipeg, STARS was the best choice for me. I couldn’t imagine being in the back of an ambulance on highways for that long. I probably wouldn’t have made it. The helicopter landed on the beach after the sun had set. I remember seeing the trees and the lake out the windows as we flew away.

I feel like I owe STARS everything. It brings tears to my eyes just thinking about what would have happened to me if STARS hadn’t started nighttime flights on the same day of my injury.

Not long after I was hurt, the crew visited me in hospital for more than an hour. I was so honoured that they would do something like that for me. I noticed that the pilot was wearing the STARS Red Ring for Life on his wedding finger. I told him I was going to buy one when I got out of the hospital. A few minutes after they left my room the pilot came running back. He pulled his red ring off his finger and said: “Here, I want you to have this.” What he did left me speechless. I could tell how much he loves his job and giving me that ring showed me that for STARS, it’s about the patients.

I have been labeled a quadriplegic. I can move my arms, but not my hands. I am working on that. I can’t walk right now, but one day I will. I am grateful for life. To show my support for STARS I had an image of the Red Ring for Life tattooed on my arm, so I will never forget what they did for me that day.”

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