In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

October 14, 2014

Mayo One Celebrates 30 Years and Precious Minutes

By In the Loop

Mayo One helicopterAnniversaries are times to celebrate as well as look back and take stock. And when the good folks at Mayo One look back ontheir 30 years of service, they think about patients like Nels Gunderson, whose life hung in the balance when a farm accident claimed his leg and nearly ended his life. Nels recently told the Rochester Post-Bulletin that he's "living proof" of how important the service is. "Without it, I may or may not have been here," he says.

Nels was working on his property in Osseo, Wisconsin, back in May 2012 when he stopped to make a quick repair to his rototiller. "I was planting sweet corn with a commercial rototiller, walked up to the rototiller to repair a pin that was acting up," he tells the newspaper. "The rototiller decided to jump up … and landed on the end of my work boot. And before we could get it shut off, it cut my leg off ... sucked me into the rototiller." His leg was severed four inches below the knee.

His son quickly shut off the machine and called 911 – the first actions in what Nels describes as a "textbook" response he credits with saving his life. First responders – including Nels' brother, who the P-B notes is "the local EMS director" – were on the scene quickly, and the Mayo One emergency medical helicopter based at nearby Chippewa Valley Regional Airport in Eau Claire was close on their heels. "They were going in the air before we even dispatched them, because they heard the call," Nels says.

Thankfully for Nels, the helicopters are equipped to serve as a mobile ER/ICU, armed with whatever it takes to handle nearly any serious trauma injury. And in addition to equipment that allows the flight team to monitor a patient's heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, carbon dioxide and oxygen levels, and other advanced-level equipment, all Mayo One helicopters carry blood and plasma that can be administered inflight or at the referring hospital. "Fortunately for me, they had whole blood on the helicopter," Nels says. "I think I took about 7.5 pints of blood in the process of getting over to Mayo and getting into surgery."

Less than two hours later, Nels was in surgery 90 miles away at Mayo Clinic Hospital, Saint Marys Campus, in Rochester. He credits the quick response on all counts with a quick recovery and being able to return – with the help of a prosthesis – to many of the activities he had previously enjoyed, such as hunting, fishing and serving as the local fire chief in his hometown.

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