A Wonderful Experience Through Air Medical Transport

Posted on November 30, 2018

Dorothy Ackles has experienced her share of tough medical knocks.

Her experience with AirMed International wasn’t one of them. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Dorothy, a quadriplegic who also requires a ventilator, was flown by an AirMed crew from Wisconsin to Tennessee so that she can live in a care facility that specializes in people on ventilators.

“It was such a wonderful experience and I praise God, because I know He’s the One who orchestrated it,” Dorothy said.

Dorothy lived with a ventilator in her nose for three years before increased difficulty breathing required her to undergo a tracheostomy, so that the ventilator could be placed in her windpipe. The spirited former church Christian counselor had put off that surgery in order to preserve her voice and ability to eat regular food, but eventually she determined the surgery was necessary.

Her sister told her about Quiet Oaks Adult Care Home, one of three places in the country that care for ventilator-dependent patients only in a home setting. However, Quiet Oaks is a 15-hour drive from the Mayo Clinic in La Crosse, Wisconsin, where she was in ICU.

The clinic arranged for AirMed to transport Dorothy to her new home. She said she had “no idea of the expertise that would be required to fly a vent patient at that altitude with the pressure and everything changing. “I noticed absolutely no changes in my breathing. It was completely comfortable. And, I don’t know, I just – it just felt like I was in my room back at the hospital.”

As for the flight crew, she said, “The guys were incredible. They were nice, and sweet, and funny. I mean, a four-hour flight went by in just minutes. And when we landed, I couldn’t believe that we were already there. They even traveled from the airport to Quiet Oaks in the ambulance with me to make sure I got here okay.”

Dorothy is grateful to be at Quiet Oaks, where she says she still has some “independence and control over my living arrangements.” She wasn’t ready to go into a nursing home. At Quiet Oaks, she has a computer she controls with her eyes, video chats with her grandchildren and can save enough money to occasionally send them small gifts. She has retained her voice and believes she will soon be able to eat again. And the care she receives there is outstanding!

Dorothy is remarkably upbeat for someone who injured her cervical spine in a fall from a tree as a child, discovered a few years later that she had developed a tumor in her spinal cord, endured multiple surgeries, a full course of radiation, back braces, and rods. She went on to earn two master’s degrees before cancer returned in her late 30s. She entered a case study with a scientific cutting-edge food supplement and after two years was told she was cancer free. But latent radiation damage eventually rendered her a quadriplegic.

As Dorothy says, “Other than the fact that I’m a quadriplegic and I’ve got a hole in my throat, I can thank God that through His use of the pulmonary team at Mayo-Franciscan Medical Center, AirMed, Quiet Oaks, and modern technology I have discovered that there is quality of life after a vent-dependent tracheostomy.”