On April 29, 2023, the A.L.E.R.T. Advisory Board and Logan Health are hosting the 45th Annual A.L.E.R.T. Banquet, the marquee fundraising event for the medical flight program.
The A.L.E.R.T. program began in 1975 as the second hospital-based advanced life support helicopter system in the United States and the first of its kind in rural America. Today, A.L.E.R.T. continues its lifesaving legacy in the region and has evolved into an elite medical and critical care transport program, with a highly-trained and highly-specialized flight crew. Since its creation, the program has responded to more than 20,000 emergency calls and saved thousands of lives.
Each year, a patient story is highlighted during the Banquet to help demonstrate the lifesaving impact A.L.E.R.T. has on Montana’s communities. This year’s story is of 10-month-old Calum McCully, who took his first airplane ride in the A.L.E.R.T. transport plane when he was just a few days old. Calum was born at 25 weeks gestation and had to be transferred to Salt Lake City for two specialized procedures not long after he was born.
“It is very scary hearing that your baby is needing to be sent somewhere else, but I trusted the Logan Health staff and A.L.E.R.T. team,” says Verity Thorne, Calum’s mother. “Even with his early birth and all of the surgeries he had to go through, I become the most emotional when I reflect on the care we received from the A.L.E.R.T. crew. The whole crew was just so thoughtful and caring. I wasn’t able to join Calum on his flights because of my own medical needs at the time, but knowing he was with Logan Health flight nurses and pilots really put me at ease.”
Over the past three years, Logan Health’s highly-trained medical flight crew and pediatric specialists, established the first neonatal-pediatric transport team in Montana—allowing flight nurses to provide NICU-level care outside of the hospital to kids like Calum, both on the ground and in the air.
“We’ve dedicated our lives caring for these patients, like Verity and Calum, and whether they have a choice in it or not, we are immersed in their family during this critical time,” explains Brian Stewart, A.L.E.R.T. neonatal-pediatric flight nurse at Logan Health. “Due to community support, we have the infant life support equipment needed to take care of the tiniest babies in these critical moments. With Montana being such a remote state, these babies simply wouldn’t survive without this specialized form of transportation and care. I take such pride in my work and in our team when a parent trusts us to keep their baby safe and warm.”
Originally from Libby, Verity and Calum were anxious to come back to Kalispell to continue their care in Montana at Logan Health, where they could be close to support from family and friends. When the hospital in Salt Lake City wasn’t able to schedule a transport back to Montana for several days, Logan Health sent the A.L.E.R.T. fixed-wing plane and the neonatal flight team to pick up Calum the day of their discharge. “When I heard A.L.E.R.T. was coming to get us, it felt like family was coming to rescue us and take us home,” says Thorne. “I was so grateful for how quickly they were able to schedule our transport back to Montana so we could continue our care at Logan Health and be close to family. It was hard being isolated in a different state after such a traumatic experience.”
The A.L.E.R.T. program’s dedicated team of skilled professionals—which includes pilots, mechanics, flight nurses, and other emergency medical personnel—and its advanced transport technology have been critical in ensuring the survival and well-being of countless children and families in Montana and beyond. All proceeds from the Banquet directly fund and support the A.L.E.R.T. program, providing the flight team with the resources and equipment they need to continue saving lives and helping patients.