On October 1st, 1995, the DRF Luftrettung “Christoph Niedersachsen” went into operation. What is taken for granted today was a challenge at the beginning.
Review: The fact that the red and white helicopter of the DRF Luftrettung can take off daily from Hanover Airport is largely thanks to the former station manager Achim Bickel. The pilot built the station in the 1990s. One of the many challenges was finding a location. A friend gave him offices in the airport hall of a German airline. There was also a place to stand for the helicopter. It finally started on October 1st, 1995, and since then the crew of “Christoph Niedersachsen” has mainly been flying intensive care patients who have to be transported between clinics for better care for their injuries or illnesses.
Further challenges followed: “At that time there was still no coordination office (KoST), every operator of intensive care transports in Lower Saxony had to coordinate the operations themselves,” recalls Bickel. “We had to increase our awareness of the clinics so that they would even use us if necessary.” Once it happened that besides “Christoph Niedersachsen” another helicopter arrived at a clinic – to transport the same patient. “Fortunately, KoST Lower Saxony has existed since 1998, coordinating all intensive care transports in the state. And our helicopter is officially commissioned by the state to carry out intensive care transports. ”
Change and Persistence
Much has changed in the 25 years: the first helicopter, a Bell 222, was later followed by an EC145, and the crews have been flying with an H145 since 2018 . “This rescue helicopter is the most modern that currently exists,” explains the current station manager and pilot, Andreas Schwind. “The interior concept was developed by DRF Luftrettung. With its long range of around 700 kilometers and a speed of up to 262 kilometers per hour, fast transport over longer distances is no problem with the H145. Equipped as a flying intensive care unit, it offers ideal conditions for the transport of high-risk patients. ”
There have been great advances in medical technology: “Christoph Niedersachsen” has specialized in ECMO transports, for example, which were previously not possible. ECMO stands for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. This is an artificial lung that temporarily takes over the human cardiovascular function. It is used in the event of severe cardiac insufficiency, lung disease or combined cardiopulmonary disease.
One thing has stayed the same since 1995: “Christoph Niedersachsen” has been operational around the clock since the beginning, 365 days a year. “At night we are the intensive care transport helicopter that transfers patients to clinics in Lower Saxony,” notes Schwind. “We usually fly to Hanover Medical School, the Nordstadt Hospital in Hanover, the Göttingen University Clinic or the Heart and Vascular Center in Bad Bevensen. The University Clinic Göttingen and the Hannover Medical School provide their own ECMO teams – usually a cardiac surgeon and a cardio technician – with whom we carry out the ECMO transports.
In addition to intensive care transport, “Christoph Niedersachsen” is also used for emergency rescue if this is necessary. “About 20 percent of the alerts are emergency operations,” says Schwind, for whom his job is still something special. “What could be nicer than saving human lives and being able to fly. In addition, the team spirit is great, everyone is there for one another. This is the only way that everything can function optimally in action. That is exactly our goal, after all, it is about helping people. ”And that has been the case for 25 years.
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