Atrium Health MedCenter Air

Your Health | one month ago

“We’ll be there when you need us.” Heartwarming patient reunion

A life-saving flight: Atrium Health MedCenter Air crew delivers last bit of hope to dying patient and his family. One year later, they come face-to-face during an emotional reunion.

“We’ll be there when you need us.” Atrium Health MedCenter Air crew reunites with grateful patient and family, one year later

Kim Eroh knew when the Med Center Air helicopter arrived at their local hospital to fly her husband of 20 years to Atrium Health Carolinas Medical Center, it was either his last hope for survival or that she was saying goodbye forever. 

“It was, I don’t know the right words to use, sort of the most excruciating and most hopeful I felt throughout his journey,” says Kim. “My sons and I parked outside the hospital and watched as they carted him out on the stretcher and put him into the helicopter. It was the first time I’d seen him since I dropped him off at the hospital. Having all the tubes and everything, it was hard to see, but I’m glad we were there because I feel we were able to send our love and, hopefully, he felt it.”

Dan and Kim Eroh reunite with the crew whose quick actions in the air helped save Dan’s life on year ago.
Dan and Kim Eroh reunite with the crew whose actions in the air helped save Dan’s life 

Dan Eroh started feeling sick on August 1, 2021. It was COVID. His symptoms continued to get worse and one week after testing positive, Dan was admitted to his local hospital just outside of Charlotte. Before dawn on August 21, he was so sick that he needed a tube to help him breathe. By that night, doctors told his family he had just one chance: transfer to another hospital with the highest level of care possible – and fast. Atrium Health’s MedCenter Air was soon on the way to pick Dan up. Because of the crew’s experience and training they knew he needed to go straight to Carolinas Medical Center to give him one last fighting chance.

Every call is stressful, because it’s someone’s life in your hands,” said Kacee Griffin, a flight nurse for MedCenter Air. “But knowing our hard work and training pays off, we’ll go above and beyond to help a patient. Whether it’s transporting a patient who is already in either our facility or another – or transporting a patient from a bad wreck on the highway – we do this for our patients.”

“And we will be there when you need us,” added Atrium Health flight respiratory therapist, Christian Travis. 

Helicopter critical care transport is exactly what Dan needed. MedCenter Air operates four helicopter bases that serve North and South Carolina, with crews on standby 24/7 that can be dispatched in a moment’s notice. Crew members have extensive training, including experience in the ICU or emergency department, and are cross-credentialed with EMS certifications, among other advanced training. The extensive capabilities and training allow the crew to make life-saving decisions while in the air.   

During the summer of 2021, the highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19 was surging, claiming tens of thousands of lives across the country, and North Carolina was no different. Doctors and nurses at Carolinas Medical Center cared for Dan for weeks. He was on a ventilator and spent four weeks in a coma. But slowly, miraculously, he began to recover. The journey has been a long one and, for Dan, it’s not over yet. But every day, things like going for walks and mowing the lawn are becoming easier. 

“When you finally wake up from something like this you have questions in the back of your mind of ‘Why me?’” says Dan. “There are so many other people who aren’t as lucky as me. I feel the Lord brought me back because I wasn’t done with my job of raising two young men.”

Dan and Kim know the efforts to save Dan’s life spanned across the entire team at Atrium Health, but they feel especially grateful for the MedCenter Air crew who gave him that one last glimmer of hope. One last chance to fight and, ultimately, survive. 

Griffin, respiratory therapist Chris Travis and pilot Ken Norman had flown similar flights before. But medical flights focus on immediate care and their patients are often very sick. Griffin and Travis don’t always get to see how the story ends. But this summer, as Dan marked one year since that moment-of-truth flight, they were able to reunite with him and his family – something that doesn’t happen often. For Travis, this was his first time reuniting with a patient.

“I think it was important for me to come out and meet them; thank them in person,” adds Dan. “Obviously, I wasn’t coherent at that time but, from what I can understand and what everyone has told me, they were making decisions in the air. I can’t thank them enough.”  

Kim says the reunion is a form of closure after an experience that changed her family forever. Having the chance to look the flight crew in the eyes, hug them and thank them for saving her husband’s life is not something she takes lightly. 

“Dan knew how sick he was,” added Kim. “He doesn’t remember a lot after going on the ventilator, but I will always know – in my mind, they saved his life that day. They got him there (to Carolinas Medical Center), and safely. There are so many people who helped save Dan’s life, but the flight crew represents the moment he had one more fighting chance.”

Watch the reunion: