Memorial Hermann Life Flight® launches first canine air ambulance service

Memorial Hermann Life Flight® launches first canine air ambulance service

9-Dec-2020 Source: Memorial Hermann Life Flight

Memorial Hermann Life Flight® is proud to launch its K9-Casualty Care Course and Transportation Service, making Life Flight the first air ambulance service in the nation to provide training, treatment and transportation for injured K9 officers.

The K9-CCC program provides K9 handlers with emergency care training for their K9s including wound packing, poison control, CPR and tourniquet use. As part of the training, each handler receives a K9 specific Individualized First Aid Kit (IFAK) which includes wound packing material, gloves, a CPR mask for human-to-K9 CPR and a tourniquet. IFAKs for K9s were donated to Life Flight by We Ride to Provide, an organization honoring fallen police dogs.

Handlers are also trained on when it is appropriate to call Life Flight for severely injured K9s. The program operates under the four pillars of teach, train, treat and transport.

“It’s our hope that through our program we are able to reduce the number of police canine fatalities by providing handlers with advanced first aid training and IFAKs,” said Rudy Cabrera, Chief Flight Nurse of Life Flight. “Early treatment and intervention is key to recovery from injuries and, through this program, we will be able to transport K9s to receive the most appropriate and optimal care.”

Life Flight paramedics and nurses participated in specialized training, developed and approved by Houston veterinarian, Jeff Chalkley, DVM.

Law enforcement K9s in need of critical medical care, who are within Life Flight’s 150-mile radius, will be transported to one of three veterinary hospitals: Texas A&M University Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, VERGI 24/7 Animal Emergency and Critical Care Hospital or Westbury Animal Hospital. Each location has 24-hour access and is equipped with a helipad or a designated area for Life Flight to land.

Life Flight’s K9-CCC program is the first non-government agency program in the nation to provide care and transport to injured K9s through an established protocol and policy, according to the Texas Operational Canine Committee.

“Memorial Hermann Life Flight has been a leader in trauma care in the Greater Houston community for more than 40 years,” said Life Flight Medical Director Dr. Lesley Osborn. “Expanding our services to now include caring for K9 officers – who are also putting their lives on the line – showcases our commitment to our fellow first responders, along with our desire to continue to elevate the standard of prehospital care in this country.” Osborn is assistant professor of emergency medicine at McGovern Medical School at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

Launched in 1976 as the second air ambulance program in the country, Memorial Hermann Life Flight was the vision of trauma medicine pioneer, the late Dr. James “Red” Duke. The simulator K9 used during training is named Jake, a tribute to Dr. Duke’s beloved dog. In 2016, under the leadership of Cabrera and Life Flight Outreach Education Coordinator George Tarver III, Life Flight began developing the K9-CCC program.

“As leaders in trauma care and with the support of the community, Memorial Hermann Life Flight is always identifying ways to be on the cutting edge of medicine and advances in care delivery,” said Tom Flanagan, vice president of the Trauma Service Line and System Integration at Memorial Hermann Health System. “Dr. Duke’s passion for pre-hospital emergency care and his love for dogs were driving factors in establishing this program. This was Dr. Duke’s idea and I’m proud our team was able to make his vision come to fruition.”

Agencies were able to enroll in training programs which began in April 2019. Since then, more than 100 K9 handlers and 40 emergency medical services and fire personnel have been trained on treating their injured K9s. The Life Flight team is conducting three to five training classes each month and estimates there are approximately 200 police canines in the Greater Houston area.

“The Memorial Hermann Life Flight K9-CCC program is very important to the K9 handler and police K9 officer’s community,” said Kristin Uhlin, Senior Police Officer and Handler/Leader with the Narcotics Division Canine Detail at the Houston Police Department (HPD). K9 handlers with HPD have participated in the trainings. “Our department is fortunate to have this resource and service available to our team so we can continue to protect and service the Greater Houston area.”

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