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Mason flies to rescue in AirCare unit

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Elk Creek native Holly Mason manages the AirCare helicopter service at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center

Submitted by Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Life is a constant adrenalin rush for Holly Mason, a Grayson County, Va., native who recently was named program manager of AirCare Critical Care Transport Service at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
Holly runs a service that includes two helicopters and four ambulances that transport critically ill or injured patients to Wake Forest Baptist, the only Level 1 Trauma Center in North Carolina’s Piedmont region.
The service makes frequent trips to pick up patients in Galax, Carroll and Grayson, so Mason gets to come home occasionally — soaring over the mountains to Twin County Regional Hospital or landing briefly at a zone set up near an accident scene.
The visits are brief when she’s on the job, and she usually only sees home from the air, but that’s the nature of the job.
AirCare is a 24/7 operation, and time is the critical factor.
“I love the pressure of meeting the standard of the Golden Hour,” Mason says, referring to the goal of getting medical attention to critical patients within one hour.  “Time to care is the difference for our patients.”
Mason not only manages AirCare, she also is a flight nurse on the helicopters. She takes her turn on 12-hour shifts, in which she and a paramedic respond to calls from first responders and community hospitals in North Carolina and Virginia.
“We must make the right decisions and make them independently and quickly,” Mayson says.
She has earned seven advanced certifications in nursing, including Certified Emergency Nurse.  She worked in the Trauma Center and the Burn Center at Wake Forest Baptist before becoming a flight nurse in 2000.
“Holly brings a wealth of knowledge to this leadership position,” said Susan Bachmeier, director of nursing at Wake Forest Baptist. “She is an experienced critical care, emergency and transport nurse and has developed excellent relationships with EMS services and departments within the Medical Center.”
The adrenalin rush doesn’t stop when she is off duty.  “My hobbies involve adventure, too,” she says. Mason enjoys skydiving, driving an ATV and a motorcycle.
“I like living on the edge,” she says. “At the same time, I approach everything I do in a methodical and calculating way to make correct decisions.”
It all started growing up in the Grayson County community of Elk Creek. Her parents, Harry and Mary, taught her their work ethic. Each is now retired, having worked for more than 30 years. She visits them at least twice a month in the home where she was raised.
After graduating from Grayson County High School, Holly went to Radford University. “I fell in love with nursing when I volunteered for the Carroll County EMS while a student at Radford,” she recalls.
Mason graduated with a degree in nursing and went to work at Twin County Regional Hospital as a nurse in the emergency department and in the medical-surgical unit. She joined Wake Forest Baptist in 1997.
Along the way, a friend introduced her to Dennis “Chase” Mason, whom she met in a hospital emergency room and married in 2000. He is a Stokes County (N.C.) deputy sheriff.
They live in Pilot Mountain with their two children, Tristen, 6 and Talon, 2.
In her responsibilities as AirCare manager, Mason visits EMS squads to instruct members on the latest life-saving techniques. “We have a wonderful relationship with the first responders, who are well-trained and dedicated professionals,” she says.
Her goals as AirCare manager are to expand the service and educate the public on the importance of receiving treatment as quickly as possible.
AirCare’s new helicopter is based at the Elkin (N.C.) Municipal Airport to provide quick response to counties in northwestern North Carolina and Southwest Virginia. The other helicopter recently was moved to Lexington to improve response time to communities south of Winston-Salem.
“We are proud to be part of the EMS team that works with first responders and nurses and physicians in the emergency departments throughout the area,” Mason says. “Together we save lives.”

AirCare moves closer to Galax

ELKIN, N.C. — AirCare 2, the air ambulance of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C., is now based at the Elkin (N.C.) Municipal Airport, providing even faster critical transport service to Southwest Virginia.
“We estimate that the flight time to communities northwest of Winston-Salem has been reduced by approximately 15 minutes, depending on their location, by having the helicopter based in the primary service area,” said Donny Lambeth, president of North Carolina Baptist Hospital.
AirCare 2 primarily will serve counties in northwestern North Carolina, along with Carroll, Patrick and Grayson counties and the City of Galax in Virginia.
AirCare treats and transports patients with a variety of critical conditions, including trauma, cardiac, stroke and burn. “These patients need the emergency services of a Level 1 trauma center,” said Lambeth. Wake Forest Baptist has the only Level 1 trauma center in the region, the only Pediatric Level 1 trauma center in North Carolina and is one of only two burn centers in the state.
AirCare responds to calls from first responders and hospitals 24/7. The helicopter is in the air within eight to 10 minutes of receiving a call, and the crew is in direct radio contact with EMS personnel at the scene or the physician at the referring hospital.
The crew includes a registered nurse with special training in critical care, emergency and transport nursing and an experienced critical care paramedic.
According to the hospital, the crew treats patients at the scene. Within 10 minutes, the aircraft usually is back in the air, and the crew is in direct contact with physicians in the emergency department at Wake Forest Baptist. Studies indicate the mortality rate is lower when patients are transferred to a trauma center within 60 minutes of an accident.
The aircraft, an EC-130, flies at a cruising speed of approximately 150 mph and is equipped with sophisticated life support and patient care equipment, plus state-of-the-art navigation and communication gear and night vision goggles, according to a hospital press release. The pilot must have a commercial helicopter certificate with instrument rating and at least 2,000 hours total flight time.
Wake Forest Baptist began the air ambulance service 25 years ago and has transported more than 14,000 patients.