-by Kate Dugger-
Site of future helipad in Hornbeak, Tennessee.
“Rural trauma victims are twice as likely to die from an accident or medical condition versus an urban victim due to failure to arrive at a hospital within the Golden Hour,” according to the National Highway Safety Administration.
It’s true that living in the country and in small towns have many great advantages. But nothing is free, and in this case, living farther from major medical facilities is the price we pay. But fear not, we have the gift of flight! “When there is a serious medical emergency an Air Evac life-team can land a helicopter almost anywhere,” said Air Evac Program
Director Kent Martin. But it’s always better if the flight team can land in a known, designated spot. “If we know the spot, we know there aren’t any unknown factors. It’s safer for everyone.” Martin said.
Most small towns in our area have designated landing spots. In most cases, the spots are open fields, lacking pavement, lights or a driveway. Having these things available can make landing the emergency helicopter easier, which speeds up the process, saves minutes. And those minutes save lives. The flight from Hornbeak to Paducah is 25 minutes. To Jackson, it’s 28 minutes Memphis is 50 minutes, and the flight to Nashville is right at one hour.
Hornbeak, Tennessee, has been fundraising for materials to build a helipad since September, 2015. It’s a need that the town wanted filled, as there between 30-50 flights from that area per year. Their goal was $4000 -$5000 to build. This would be a simple concrete slab, no smaller than 50’x 50′. There had been a few stops and starts in the project. Mayor Dennis Dozier noted that there were “miscommunications with the one volunteer.” Also, a grant had been applied for but was denied by the county.
Enter Deloma Pitts of Hornbeak and owner of DD’s Diner. “Every morning the mayor and his clan come in here (the diner). I asked him why we don’t have anything like Troy’s Involvement Days,” she said. He responded, “Ok, when do you want to do it?” Pitts laughed and said, “I opened my mouth when I probably should have kept it shut!”
Pitts agreed to organize the event. She and Dozier were like-minded in thinking there should be a project or a goal to fund with the proceeds. The most logical community investment was the helipad. Pitts became a driving force in the organization and implementation of the event. “We called it Hornbeak Getting Involved, and that was our thing, trying to get the whole community involved.” Projects this size can be intimidating when you don’t know how to start. “Sometimes people want to help but they need someone to tell how or to ask them to do something.”
Pitts also hosted a chili supper at DD’s which was a hit. The Hornbeak Heritage Cookbook has also been a very popular item. This was the brainchild of Gail Whitmore, Pitts’ sister. When Whitmore heard about the fundraising, she decided to put together a cookbook cataloguing some great recipes from Hornbeak residents. In a Facebook post, Whitmore said she hoped to get a recipe from every family in Hornbeak. They have sold out twice now with a total of 350 sold, and Whitmore has more on order. Not surprisingly Hornbeak exceeded their goal in four months. “Now we can do it up right” Pitts said “recessed lights, a driveway, and the whole nine yards.”
Martin was very pleased with the planned pad. “It will be better lit, the weather won’t be such a big factor when landing, and it will be more visible. These are enhancements to our system, and make us more effective.” Teams from the Martin, Tennessee, Air Evac base know the area, but if a substitute team has to make the flight, a well-lit landing pad will make things easier them. According to Martin, the town of Troy, Hornbeak’s neighbor, and Latham in Weakley County are also looking in to building helipads. “We are proud that our communities want to work with us,” said Martin.
“It’s a great little town, and we really pull together when there is something to get behind.” Dozier beamed. Construction is set to start in spring. Dozier estimates that it will take no longer than two weeks to complete.
The town of Hornbeak has pulled together beautifully to fill a need. “Getting the community involved in our community is pretty much our main focus,” Pitts said. She already has plans for a new project.