Recently, I awakened during the night with the sound of the Erlanger helicopter flying over our home. Actually, It was a comforting sound because I knew that some family somewhere felt that a loved one had a better-than-average chance of recovery.
The following day, I mentioned the incident to my friend, Jenny Richards. Immediately, she responded that she knew Brad Simmons, the pilot and base manager for Erlanger Life Force. "Would you like to interview him?" she asked.
"Absolutely," I replied.
Within a week, Brad's wife, Rhonda, Jenny Richards and I were taking the circuitous route to the top of the hospital and the hangar that houses the beautiful blue helicopter, which we often see as only a speck in the sky.
Brad met us and took us through the Monitor Lab where they receive calls from each of their four bases -- Sparta, Tenn., Calhoun, Ga., Chattanooga and the Blue Ridge Mountains. Incidentally, there are more than 2,000 patients who call into the service each year and more than 700 hospitals that provide the service. The first such Life Force service began in 1970 and, since that time, the service has exploded throughout the nation.
Simmons says the appreciation expressed by patients makes him feel it's worth all the effort which he and his associates exert. For example, recently at a grocery store, a woman he didn't know said to him, "Thank you for saving my life."
Another incident happened when Brad was piloting the helicopter that carried a man who was believed to have drowned. To see that man reach the hospital so doctors and nurses could return him to life filled Simmons with gratitude and thanks to God. Years later at an outing, a man said, "You saved the life of my best friend when we thought he was dead. I've waited all these years to be able to express gratitude."
In retrospect, I realize that this is a modern "Good Samaritan" story. The participants are not just a pilot and personnel from the Erlanger Life Force, but also a large metropolitan hospital committed to service and to saving lives.
Contact Nell Mohney at firstname.lastname@example.org.