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“We were on the ground for 35 seconds.” – Dr. Tom Jelic

Every time a STARS helicopter is dispatched, a team of highly skilled professionals supports that mission in the air and on the ground. As a STARS transport physician, Dr. Tom Jelic is an important part of that critical care team. Since joining STARS in 2014, he has seen some major advancements in the care we are able to provide to Manitobans.

“There’s been a huge change in a pretty short time,” said Dr. Jelic. “When I started, we didn’t carry blood, we didn’t carry reversal agents for blood thinners, we didn’t have a video laryngoscope device, we didn’t have an ultrasound machine on board. In a very short timeframe, we’ve brought that next level of care to patients.”

Dr. Jelic notes that the STARS helicopter really is a flying intensive care unit with an expert team working together to ensure the best possible outcome for patients. “Our crews are exceptionally trained, and that is evident every step of the way, from their intubation skills to ultrasound to the care they provide to patients,” said Dr. Jelic.

“We can resuscitate you, we can give you blood, we can diagnose injuries and illnesses with ultrasound — and take better care of patients than ever before.”

The teamwork between the medical crews, both in the helicopter and on the ground, is important, especially in situations where every minute counts. Dr. Jelic recalls a recent dispatch to transport a young patient who was involved in a motor vehicle collision and needed to be flown from a rural health facility to a trauma centre in Winnipeg.

“The rural facility had no blood products, no ultrasound equipment, and very limited diagnostic capabilities,” recalls Dr. Jelic. “STARS was mobilized immediately. We were able to diagnose that the patient was bleeding internally and had a collapsed lung all within five minutes of arriving.”

Given the patient’s need for additional blood products, the STARS crew connected with the hospital in Portage la Prairie — the nearest large health facility — to arrange a stop for more blood products prior to continuing to Winnipeg.

“We were able to work with our colleagues at the Portage hospital to get blood products dropped off at the helipad there,” said Dr. Jelic. “I think we were on the ground for 35 seconds. That’s just a prime example of the unique abilities of the helicopter pre-hospital service that STARS provides.”

When minutes save lives, it’s crucial having the right talent to work with our allies to make this possible.

Dr. Jelic believes there’s an even brighter future ahead for STARS in Manitoba. “I get to work with exceptional people each and every day. The difference you make in patients’ lives is palpable on every mission,” he states. “It’s an absolute pleasure to be a part of this organization, and to see it grow and to grow with it. It’s a pretty exciting time in Manitoba and for STARS.”