By Stephanie Harris
It’s something you hope you’ll never need, but for thousands in Hampton Roads and beyond, Nightingale has been a literal lifesaver. This weekend, Sentara is celebrating the air ambulance’s 35-year anniversary.
The first chopper debuted February 25, 1982 and immediately proved its value. Defying rush hour traffic, it glided over gridlock transporting a critical patient from Virginia Beach General to Portsmouth Naval Medical Center in just 18 minutes.
The current Nightingale is the fourth generation. Its biggest advances come in the smallest packages — things like an on-board ultrasound that’s about the size of an iPad that can detect internal bleeding. Soon, pilot John Stanley told 10 On Your Side they’ll also begin using instrument flight rules to get pick up more people than ever before.
“That would mean we’d be able to fly in worse weather conditions then we’re allowed to fly now,” Stanley explained.
Stanley has been flying Nightingale for almost 27 years. Flight nurse Janice McKay has been on board 22 years.
“I’ve seen miracles,” she said. “I’ve seen people survive crashes where I’ve just stood in awe at the side of the street saying, ‘How did this happen?'”