The memory that sticks with Sarah Traw was the calming effect the Air Bear medical helicopter crew had on her after it arrived at Mercy Health St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital.
Sarah’s 9-year-old child, Jocelyn, had been hit by a pickup truck July 1 while riding a bike in front of their house in Mineral Ridge, outside Youngstown. Jocelyn suffered multiple skull fractures, and her condition was deteriorating. She became unresponsive and had to be intubated in the Youngtown emergency room.
The panicked mother said she felt a degree of comfort as the Air Bear crew went to work, talking with the family and medical staff and preparing for the 20-minute flight to Akron Children’s Hospital.
“The entire atmosphere changed when they arrived,” she told a crowd gathered Monday to celebrate Air Bear’s 10th anniversary at Perkins Square Park on the Akron Children’s campus. “They’re extremely confident, they’re efficient, and it’s soothing as a parent to see them do what they do and do it well.”
Sarah was invited to speak at the event after emailing transport manager Rhonda Reed to express her appreciation for the care Jocelyn received.
Sarah doesn’t like public speaking – the very idea makes her queasy. But she felt she had something that needed to be said.
“You take these tragic situations and you take positives out of it, and these people are definitely a positive out of that awful night,” she told the crowd. “We just can’t thank them enough. They’ve been such a blessing to our lives in so many ways.”
Jocelyn underwent neurosurgery and she is recovering well. She stood with her mother and posed for photos with the Air Bear crew Monday, wearing a broad smile.
Children stood in line to get a glimpse inside the helicopter, which had descended into the grassy park to kick off the anniversary celebration.
Crew members in dark-blue flight suits formed a perimeter as the helicopter landed to a round of applause.
Christine Young, chief nursing officer and vice president of patient services, welcomed the crowd.
Air Bear has been a regional asset for critically ill and injured children, she said.
“Air Bear is Ohio’s first pediatric dedicated medical transport helicopter, and in the 10 years we’ve been in operation serving our communities, we have transported over 3,500 children to Akron Children’s Hospital from 28 counties,” Christine said.
Paramedic George Destefano has been with Air Bear since the beginning. George helped kids and adults step inside Air Bear for a look during the anniversary celebration. He said he was a factory worker when he decided to become a paramedic.
“I started my second career about 20 years ago,” he said. “I’m going to look back and be proud of what I do.”