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  • By Theodore Lewis

Finally remembering to say ‘Thank You’

Chicago, Illinois — This story is about seeing an old friend after several years, and then realizing I had never said thank you for extraordinary performance, professional assistance and for saving a life.

In February, the Maine Hospital Association 2019 Conference for Small or Rural Hospitals was held at Sunday River Ski Resort in Maine. Working with the Senior Planning Center — an organization in Maine dedicated to helping seniors with the complexities of health insurance options — I had the opportunity to attend this event.

Being away from Maine for several years, there were a few things I really missed. One of these was MHA’s great educational programs. Year after year, the association’s president Steve Michaud, director of education Carol Sinclair and their staff, find a way to present cutting edge programs that are relevant and valuable to the association members. This year's program: "Reimagining Rural Healthcare" was no exception.

On the second day of the conference during one of the breaks, I ran into Tom Judge, CCT-P and executive director of LifeFlight Of Maine, Maine's air rescue and critical care transport service. LifeFlight of Maine has received many international and national recognitions and awards for leading the way rescue helicopters are responding across the globe.

During the past 20 years, Tom has helped build LifeFlight of Maine from the ground up (no pun intended) and his leadership has resulted in over 25,000 patient transports and countless lives saved. While I was CEO at Parkview Adventist Medical Center in Brunswick, Maine, back in 2006, I was contacted by Tom.

He explained to me that Parkview was one of only a couple hospitals in Maine that didn't have a helipad. I learned that LifeFlight of Maine has helped make Maine a place where most every one of Maine's 1+ million residents (spread out over 35 k square miles of diverse topography Including offshore islands, remote mountains, and wilderness areas), when faced with a life-threatening situation, has access within minutes to specialist trauma care.

Because of Maine's diverse geography, there is a humorous saying Mainers will sometimes give to a tourist asking directions: "You can't get there from here."

LifeFlight is now able to add to this phrase: "But, LifeFlight can!"

During my indoctrination by Tom back then, I learned that each of their multimillion dollar flying ICU's, staffed with critical care personnel, is saving many lives each month by being able to get critical trauma situations to one of Maine's three critical care centers quickly, cutting life- saving minutes off the normal emergency motor vehicle transport time when even seconds can make the difference between life and death.

As a result, Parkview, in conjunction with LifeFlight, began planning to implement a simple 2400 sq. ft. helipad close to Parkview's Emergency Room. The primary target situation would be when a patient is identified in Parkview's Emergency Room that needed time sensitive specialized trauma care or surgery which would trigger the precise experienced guidelines for a transport with LifeFlight.

As Tom and I talked during the break, we both reflected on the incredible satisfaction we felt when, in March of 2009, approval to implement the service finally occurred from Town authorities. Then I asked Tom if he remembered the situation of our team member, who within days of the helipad opening, suffered a major stroke. This was the first critical patient/situation to be transported by LifeFlight from Parkview's Helipad, and according to the Critical Care specialists at Central Maine, the patient's life was saved as a result of the fast reaction and transport by LifeFlight. Of course, Tom remembered it well.

After returning home from the conference I read an article entitled: "Times when you should say Thank You, but don't" and realized I had never thanked Tom for making the difference in getting our Parkview helipad project approved. More importantly, I had never thanked him for saving Carl's life.

We all in Maine take this extraordinary effort and life-saving service for granted! Thank you, Thank you Tom!

Theodore Lewis, former CEO of the Guam Memorial Hospital. After completing 5,312 rides over two and half years in Maine, Lewis retired from Uber and began his consultancy work for Chancellor Health Care in Illinois and Texas. He is still collecting stories about life Send feedback to

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