2019 Nevada Star of Life
Sarah Allen was born and raised in Tonopah, Nevada, where she still lives with her family. Tonopah is a remote wide spot in the road, two hundred miles from the closest major hospital. Access to healthcare in the town of seven thousand has been in decline, and most notably absent are essential services like EMS or doctors. Sarah, mother of three girls, left behind working as an ICU nurse in the big city to take on the challenge of serving as a first responder in her community. As a Flight Nurse, it wasn’t uncommon for her to respond 24/7 from her home, traveling as far as sixty miles to reach accidents and medical emergencies. There, she stabilized, ground transported to awaiting medevac airplanes, and then accompanied the patients to the hospital. Typically, there was no back-up. Conditions are remote. Cell phones don’t work and the weather at 6,000 feet of elevation can change rapidly. While every response is voluntary, she tirelessly cared for people in need, even under adverse conditions. Her presence made differences in each and every response.
Sarah’s approach is to treat her patients like members of her own family. In fact, Sarah is often quietly referred to as “Mother Sarah” in her community and by her co-workers. She knows her previous patients, and future ones too! She hugs when a hug is needed, cries when tears need to be shed, and holds a firm line when it need holding. When tragedy strikes despite the very best medical efforts, Sarah even attends patient funerals. She taught herself how to leave her life as a mother, travel to an emergency, render care, and then to get the patient to the airplane and onto a hospital… innovation and sacrifice, on the personal level, at its best!
When there was a terrible head-on crash in a remote desert location, Sarah’s phone rang asking for her assistance. Fifteen minutes later, she arrived in her personal car, where she encountered a horrible sight: There were fatalities, and the living were either strewn about in the snow or helplessly entrapped in the wreckage. Everyone involved at the scene was either a neighbor or a friend. Until others arrived to help, Sarah tended to her best friend who had sustained a head injury, her friend’s child who was severely injured and in shock, and her friend’s husband, who was her own husband’s best friend. She organized numerous medevacs to distant trauma centers. She then climbed into the wreckage of an overturned truck and held the hand of the entrapped man, a friend, as consciousness waned life and left his body. Holding the hand of your friend as he leaves this world cannot is not an easy thing and most definitely leaves its scars behind. It did for Sarah. Thankfully, with the passage of time, she is healed and once again an amazing EMS provider and proud member of the AirMed family.
More recently, Sarah and her Paramedic partner performed a medevac mission. Her team arrived at a remote airfield to find a volunteer ambulance crew desperately trying to resuscitate a 10-year-old asthmatic in arrest. Again, in a place with no consult or helpful resources, Flight Nurse Sarah was instrumental turning a tragedy into a saved life, delivering that boy to the Children’s Hospital 220 miles away. The child gave a thumbs up on arrival. Sarah’s resilience and caring are a constant inspiration.
As rural hospitals continue to close and traditional healthcare services shrink, mobile healthcare services become more important. They are sometimes all that can stand in the gap between life and death. It’s the “Stars of Life” like Sarah Allen, who continue to work tirelessly with little recognition. Today, let’s recognize and celebrate Nevada’s band of heroes!