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St. Vincent HELP Flight celebrates 40 years of care in Montana

Posted at 6:00 PM, Jun 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-17 14:48:50-04


BILLINGS – HELP Flight celebrates this month its 40th anniversary of responding to emergencies in south-central Montana.

The air ambulance service run out of St. Vincent Healthcare has spent four decades taking to the sky to help Montanans in their times of need.

Providing what can be life-saving care while in the air requires a very specific set of skills.

“With an ambulance background, I’m used to smaller spaces. However, this is smaller,” said Whitney Jacobs, a flight paramedic for HELP Flight. “We’re used to bumpy environments, this is bumpier. In an ambulance, you can stand up and you can move around appropriately. You can’t do that in the aircraft.”

The Help Flight helicopter prepares for a flight (MTN News)

While providing care in a relatively small helicopter or plane may not be everyone’s first choice, there was never another option for Jacobs.

“When I was five, HELP Flight came out and did a show and tell at my grade school,” said Jacobs. “I got picked as the little girl that got to get into the aircraft, and I decided that day that I wanted to be a paramedic.”

Jacobs than dedicated her teenage years to becoming a paramedic with one specific goal in mind: to fly for HELP Flight at St. Vincent.

Growing up in rural Montana herself, Jacobs saw the impact a service like HELP Flight had on the area’s small ranching communities firsthand. The job was the best of both worlds.

“It could be me, it could be my mother, it could be my father,” said Jacobs. “What might not seem like a huge medical disaster to us – when you’re rural, it is.”

The air ambulance responds all over the region, taking part in transportation assistance for those in rural communities who need a higher level of care, to actual rescues of those injured in areas difficult to access.

HELP Flight crews alternate between work in the helicopter, and a small, fixed-wing plane, responding to about 800 calls a year.

A community celebration is planned from 8-11 a.m. Saturday at Dehler Park.

The helicopter will be parked on the field, and the flight crew will have a booth set up to take pictures and hand out prizes.