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Local News

'Flying ICU' – Woman credits Joliet paramedic crew with saving her life

‘If they hadn’t been there, I would not have made it’

Two years ago, Jessi Machnik was in a car crash on Interstate 55 that left her with a broken arm and broken legs, one of which had to be amputated after it became infected.

The 21-year-old Plainfield resident said the injuries she suffered in the Sept. 17, 2017, crash were so severe that the firefighters who responded to the scene did not think she was going to make it to the hospital.

Machnik said her pickup truck crashed on I-55 between Route 6 and Interstate 80 after “something larger” than her car struck it. She said it was a hit-and-run that caused her truck to go off the road and become impaled on a guard rail.

Machnik said a crew with Air Methods LifeStar in Joliet took her by helicopter from the crash site to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn in about 20 minutes. She said the crew’s treatment of her injuries and quick flight to the hospital is what saved her life.

“If they hadn’t been there, I would not have made it,” she said.

Earlier this year Machnik met the crew at their base at 23810 County Farm Road to thank them.

“Their job is very important because when someone is in that critical of a condition, they’re really some of the most necessary people out there to help them, because you can only go so fast on land,” Machnik said.

LifeStar Chief Flight Nurse Liesl Moeck said the crew is capable of doing anything that an intensive care unit can do. She said LifeStar has four medics, four nurses and four pilots, as well as mechanics at the base.

The crew can bring patients from rural areas to high-level trauma centers or quickly respond to car crashes on interstate highways, she said.

“We basically are a flying ICU,” she said.

About three weeks ago, LifeStar started carrying blood and plasma on its flights to “support improved outcomes” for patients with traumatic injuries or other conditions that require blood transfusions, according to Air Methods, the company that owns LifeStar.

“By carrying blood and plasma on our flights, we are adding another layer of medical care that we can provide to patients who need to be rapidly transported to larger medical centers,” Dr. Mark Cichon, LifeStar medical director, said in an Air Methods news release.

Moeck said carrying blood and plasma for patients with traumatic injuries on LifeStar can increase their survival rate.

Moeck also said when it comes to trauma care, there is a “golden hour” where patients need care from “the hour of injury.”

“Research is starting to show that giving blood early in trauma patients is going to be a huge deal,” she said.

After Machnik was taken to the Oak Lawn hospital, she said she underwent 38 blood transfusions and
27 surgeries.

After she received rehabilitation for her injuries, she went back to the hospital for a bone graft procedure, but doctors discovered she had a bone infection in her right leg, which had to be amputated.

Machnik said she still goes scuba diving and horseback riding since the crash. She uses a prosthetic leg and now plans on studying prosthetics.

Moeck said several patients have come back to thank LifeStar.

She said what the LifeStar crew loves most about their job is being able to walk into a room or be on the scene and immediately earn the trust of people who need their help.

“There’s not a lot of jobs where people automatically trust you,” Moeck said. “It’s definitely a blessing and gift, and it’s not something we take lightly.”

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