'Angels among us' share mission of love for ill, injured childre - CBS46 News

'Angels among us' share mission of love for ill, injured children.

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The Pedi-Flite family takes us inside their world and explains what it means to make a difference for Mid-South families. The Pedi-Flite family takes us inside their world and explains what it means to make a difference for Mid-South families.
"You know at some point during your day you're going to be called to help someone," said critical care paramedic Chance Gearheart. "You know at some point during your day you're going to be called to help someone," said critical care paramedic Chance Gearheart.
Months after a devastating crash that killed two Pedi-Flite nurses and a pilot, their legacy lives on with a mission of love for ill and injured children. Months after a devastating crash that killed two Pedi-Flite nurses and a pilot, their legacy lives on with a mission of love for ill and injured children.
Pedi-Flite has been operating in the Mid-South for thirty years, not only in the air, but also on the ground. Pedi-Flite has been operating in the Mid-South for thirty years, not only in the air, but also on the ground.
MEMPHIS, TN -

(WMC) - They are angels among us. A highly trained team of nurses, therapists, paramedics, and pilots have a sole mission to care for and transport critically ill and injured children all over the Mid-South.

Just over six months ago a Pedi-Flite team doing just that crashed and died on their way to pick up a child in Bolivar, Tennessee. Their legacy lives on through the dedication of their peers.

"Never know what you're walking into," said respiratory therapist Danielle Shields.

Even on their toughest days members of the Pedi-Flite family stay constant in their commitment to Mid-South families.

"We laugh together, we cry together, unfortunately sometimes we grieve together," said critical care paramedic Chance Gearheart.

"You look over your shoulder and you're amazed at what's going on by these clinicians in the back seat and you're like man, I am so excited to be a part of this," said Pilot Director of Safety Miles Dunagan.

Pedi-Flite is a pediatric specialty transport team made up of almost 50 nurses, respiratory therapists, paramedics, and pilots headquartered at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital.

"It's bigger than a lot of people would expect. It's a fairly large operation and a lot of complexity," said emergency services director Crile Crisler.

Pedi-Flite calls come through radios at the Le Bonheur Communications Center.

"We have a red phone on the wall at all of our bases. When the red phone rings, we're stepping into someone's nightmare," said Dunagan.

That means being ready at all times. Flight crew members always inspect the heli-pad to make sure nothing will compromise a safe landing. Downstairs, crew members check their equipment and are always prepared to launch in twenty minutes or less.

"You know that at some point in our day you're going to be called to help someone, and if you're not on top of your game they may not make it," said Gearheart.

Safety is a top priority.

Eighteen minutes into a flight on October 22, 2013 the Pedi-Flite helicopter carrying Charles Smith, flight nurse Carrie Barlow, and respiratory therapist Denise Adams veered to the right, off course and crashed into the ground. The souls on board died instantly.

"Miss Denise was one of the ones who trained me when I first came on the team," said Gearheart.

"The first thing that goes through my head is usually the weather," said flight paramedic Amanda Poby.

Though there is no proof weather was a factor in the crash, Dunagan, a former Chopper 5 pilot, works to make sure the rewards outweigh the risks on any flight.

"I don't want to get out there and fly, if I'm not 100 percent sure we can get out there and get that patient and get them back," said Dunagan.

On fixed-wing flights, specially equipped jets are used to transport patients. In this case, Pedi-Flite will pick up a patient in Kalamazoo, Michigan and bring him to St. Jude. It's just another day on the job for the heroic, yet humble, family.

"I do my best every day that I come in to make sure that I've given everything while I'm here to make sure I transport that patient and I've done the best that I could," said Shields.

"It's not just a job to us but we probably don't give ourselves as much credit as society does," said Poby.

"You know honestly I think the prevailing attitude is we don't do anything special personally. We do what we'd want someone else to do for our children," said Gearheart.

"In the end that's what we are, we're a family and we've stuck together through thick and thin and we are still here," said Gearheart.

They are angels among us. Pedi-Flite has been operating in the Mid-South for thirty years, not only in the air, but also on the ground. Ambulance transports are also part of their mission.

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