Northeast Mississippi Daily: Three decades of service: Hospital’s Careflight celebrates milestone

By Michaela Gibson Morris

For 30 years, medicine has been taking flight in Northeast Mississippi.

North Mississippi Medical Center’s Careflight has been ferrying the critically ill and injured across the region since December 1986. The helicopter service, which is operated in partnership with Air Methods, will celebrate the anniversary Saturday with a special event for first responders.

“It was a new, much-needed service,” said paramedic Al Wright, who has been flying with Careflight since 1987. “At the beginning, nobody had any flight experience. I wasn’t nervous at all. It was actually kind of exciting.”

Before NMMC had its own air ambulance service, hospitals relied on the National Guard to help move critical patients, Wright said. Typically, the flights involved moving burn patients to the center that was located in Greenville at the time.

The success of the air medical service relies on the partnerships with first responders on the ground. Emergency medical crews, firefighters and law enforcement officers are the ones who request the helicopter service and assist with setting up landing zones.